Five Things You May Have Missed in the US and Americas This Week
From diversity on display at the US midterm primaries, to Argentina’s refusal to legalize proposed abortion bill, here are five developments in the US and Americas you may have missed this week.
(1) US strengthens CFIUS with an eye toward Chinese takeovers.
US President Donald Trump signed the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) on Monday with the aim of modernizing the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a body that assesses the national security implications of foreign investment in the United States. US lawmakers have asserted that China has developed ways to skirt US restrictions by replicating US know-how at home, such as by engaging in joint ventures and forcing technology sharing. They argue that expanding CFIUS jurisdiction and authority is necessary to safeguard national security.
CFIUS has received increased attention in recent months as concern over Chinese acquisitions of US firms has risen. The bill was passed with bipartisan support and is part of a large defence bill that specifically references ‘long term strategic competition with China.’ Other countries have followed a similar path as the US, with the UK creating stricter requirements in July, and the European Union currently considering greater screening of foreign investment.
(2) Argentina’s Senate rejects legal abortion two months after lower house approval.
Argentina’s senate rejected a bill that would have legalized abortion in the first fourteen weeks of pregnancy. The bill passed the lower House of Delegates in June, but failed in the more conservative Senate by a vote of 38–31. Polls indicated that the bill had the support of the majority of the public, but Argentina’s Senate is structured such that rural regions — which tend to be more conservative — possess greater influence.
The bill’s defeat reflects the enduring power of the Catholic Church in the country. Pope Francis, an Argentinian, made his opinions on the bill well-known, and many bishops and priests campaigned against it. Despite the setback, abortion rights activists expressed optimism for the future, with Amnesty International Argentina describing the vote as a ‘stepping stone.’
(3) On the anniversary of deadly Charlottesville rally, second ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Washington sputters.
A year after a gathering of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other members of the far right assembled in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a much smaller group of protestors marched through Washington DC on Sunday. The second ‘Unite the Right’ rally managed to gather roughly two dozen attendees and was vastly outnumbered by counter-protestors, who were estimated to be in the thousands.
The so-called ‘alt-right’ has been plagued by infighting and has had access to both online and physical platforms revoked since last year’s march. Heather Heyer, who was part of the counter-protest movement objecting to the march, was murdered when struck by a vehicle during last year’s rally. Suspect James Alex Fields Jr., is facing trial on federal hate crime charges. Despite the far right’s ostensible decline, however, some observers have pointed out that much of its rhetoric has seeped its way into more mainstream media outlets.
(4) NAFTA deal appears imminent as parties approach agreement.
Despite President Trump condemning the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as ‘the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere’ and pledging to scrap the decades-old trade pact, negotiators appear close to finalizing a revamped version of the deal. The news comes on the one-year anniversary of the start of renewed negotiations and represents a turnaround after months of stalemate.
Although the pact contains Canada, Mexico and the United States, Canada has been largely side-lined from most negotiations. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has negotiated directly with Mexico in order to put pressure on Canada, and the US has threatened to make NAFTA into separate bilateral deals. Christopher Sands, the director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University cautioned that ‘Canada cannot safeguard its interests if it’s not in the room.’ Despite such warnings, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has downplayed the significance of US-Mexico bilateral talks and seems amenable to the renegotiated deal.
(5) Tuesday midterms highlight Democratic Party diversity and Trump’s grip on Republican Party.
As Christine Hallquist prevailed in Vermont’s Democratic gubernatorial primary — becoming the first transgender candidate nominated for a governorship by a major party — other Democrats made ground-breaking advances in Tuesday’s primaries. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is poised to join Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib as one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress this November.
On the Republican side, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty — who called President Trump ‘unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit to be president’ — lost his primary to Jeff Johnson.
A week after votes were cast, and trailing by only 354 votes, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer conceded to Kris Kobach in the race to keep his job. In both cases, the more pro-Trump candidate prevailed, continuing an earlier trend.