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Merkel's visit to Washington indicates challenges ahead

Here is today's foreign policy: Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House who Taliban seize an important border crossing, and the European Union announces a comprehensive climate plan.

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Here is today's foreign policy: Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House who Taliban seize an important border crossing, and the European Union announces a comprehensive climate plan.

If you would like to receive the Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please register here.

Merkel travels to the White House

US President Joe Biden receives Chancellor Angela Merkel on what will likely be her last visit to Washington before she resigns after the September elections. The two like-minded people will discuss the coronavirus pandemic, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and China's rise.

It is the second time in just over a month that the heads of state and government have met in person, after the G-7 and NATO summits in June.

While Biden and Merkel share a broad view of the world with regard to the role of multilateralism, democracy and human rights, Merkel differs from Biden in her view of China. Merkel is not ready to see China as an opponent. Typical of this approach is its steering of an investment agreement between the EU and China – which was written in part for the benefit of German industry – which was signed shortly before Biden took office.

As Thorsten Benner writes in Foreign Policy, Merkel's “accommodative” stance towards Beijing is based on “a deep-seated pessimism about the development of power in Germany and Europe” and the realization that the election of former President Donald Trump may not have been wrong. "In a world in which the US is no longer a reliable ally," writes Benner, "it thinks that a fragile Europe simply doesn't have what it takes to hold its own against Beijing."

Quad pro quo. Merkel's reluctance to delve into US geopolitical priorities also reflects the changing relationship between the United States and Europe. As Michael Hirsh of Foreign Policy writes, Trump was not the only one shocking Merkel: The Biden government's declared focus on Asia – and its dependence on its quadrilateral security dialogue partners Japan, India and Australia – means that Germany and the European Union must prepare for it , a foreign policy with less reliance on US support.

Merkel's successor. The latest polls show that US-German relations will likely pick up where Merkel left off when a new German Chancellor takes office after the Bundestag election in September. After a shaky start to the year, Merkel's CDU / CSU coalition is now clearly ahead in opinion polls. A recent poll shows Merkel's party with a two-digit lead over the Greens and the Social Democrats, Merkel's current coalition partner.

The rise in the polls is good news for Germany’s probably new leader Armin Laschet, who, despite being a close ally of Merkel, had to cope with a painful leadership task from Markus Söder, the popular Bavarian Prime Minister.

What we are following today

The EU climate plan. The European Commission announced on Wednesday ambitious plans to cut CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030, a slightly more ambitious target than a U.S. plan to cut emissions by 50 percent within the same period. The EU plan provides for a ban on new cars with internal combustion engines by 2035 and aims to increase renewable energy generation from the current 20 percent to 40 percent of the European energy mix. In a move that is likely to trigger retaliatory measures from trading partners, the EU plan also includes a proposal to impose tariffs on imports from countries with weaker climate protection laws.

The advance of the Taliban. The Taliban captured the second most important point of entry into Afghanistan on Wednesday as the group continued its advance after the withdrawal of US and international forces. The arrest of the Wesh border crossing on the Pakistani border follows similar seizures at border crossings in the provinces of Herat, Farah and Kunduz in recent days. As Peer Schouten noted in a June foreign policy article, the revenue potential of checkpoints and roadblocks makes them the “business model of choice” for insurgent groups around the world.

Bolsonaro's health. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was hospitalized on Wednesday after suffering persistent hiccups for the past 10 days. Bolsonaro's son Flavio said his father took a precaution to remove fluids from his stomach and that emergency surgery may be needed. Officials from the Sao Paulo Military Hospital said the president would be watched for 24-48 hours.

The Amazon Emergency. According to a new study by Brazilian researchers, the Amazon rainforest is now a net producer of carbon dioxide. Fires deliberately set off to clear land for ranching and agriculture, as well as deforestation and years of drought, contributed to the reversal of the Amazon's former status as a carbon sink. Researchers at the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research found that the compromise between carbon capture and emissions is not even close: the forest now produces 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year while absorbing only 500 million tons, which is a net emission in roughly corresponds to Japan's annual CO2 emissions.

Twitter censorship. In a new transparency report, social media giant Twitter noted an increase in government demands to remove content posted by journalists and news outlets in 2020. Governments made 361 legal requests for Twitter to remove content in the second half of 2020, up 26 percent from the first six months of this year. The Indian government has made the most requests for content removal, followed by Turkey, Pakistan and Russia. Twitter said it removed five tweets from journalists and news outlets due to legal requirements.

Peru's choice. Socialist candidate Pedro Castillo is set to be officially confirmed as the new president of Peru more than five weeks after the country voted between him and the conservative Keiko Fujimori. Fujimori's fraud allegations have now been reviewed and rejected by an electoral body, paving the way for Castillo's inauguration. Fujimori's party could still delay proceedings if it implements a plan to contest about 5,400 more votes, even though Castillo's 44,000 vote lead means any results in Fujimori's favor would not change the bottom line.

The Dutch village of Maartensdijk near Utrecht on Wednesday unveiled what is believed to be the world's longest solar cycle path – a 360-meter stretch with attached solar panels to generate electricity. The pilot is part of a series of solar cycle routes across the country as the Netherlands plans a carbon-free future. “We have a very crowded province with not much space, and that's why you have to try dual use. So if you can use roads to generate energy, you have a double advantage, ”Arne Schaddelee, a provincial official, told the Associated Press.

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