ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK: SOUTH KOREA’S PRESIDENT
South Korea’s top court will decide whether to confirm President Park’s impeachment on Friday. Ms Park was impeached by parliament in December in the midst of a massive corruption scandal.
If the Constitutional Court quashes the impeachment, mass protests similar to those seen in December are likely to ensue.
But if Park is removed, as is widely expected, fresh elections must be held within 60 days. The potential outcome of this vote could have substantial geopolitical ramifications for the region.
The current election favourite is Moon Jae-in, a centre-left reformist who challenged President Park in 2012 but fell just short. Crucially, Moon has raised concerns about the deployment of the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system – a system the US says is designed to protect South Korea from the North, but which China says undermines its own security. If Moon is elected, he may advocate delaying the THAAD rollout, a move that would be viewed kindly in Beijing.
However, while the timeline of this rollout is questionable, the missile system will ultimately be deployed. Whether President Park will be able to accelerate that deployment up until her term officially ends in February 2018 is yet to be seen.
TRUMP’S TIME TO SHINE: JOBS SURGE IN US
Friday will see the final employment report before next week’s interest rate decision. Jobs figures are used as a benchmark for interest rate decisions as they tend to indicate economic activity, and therefore can act as a bellwether for inflation.
Although a rate hike would be just the third in a decade, it’s almost guaranteed after 298 000 jobs were added in February – the strongest month for job creation since 2014. Job growth was fairly even across the economy, but in manufacturing – a favourite Trump crusade – it boomed to the highest levels since 2009.
The Fed faces a delicate balancing act next Wednesday: interest rates have to be raised from the rock-bottom numbers of the GFC, but this must be gradual to prevent choking off economic growth. It will only continue to do so if the economic recovery is sustained by the structural and fiscal reforms promised by the Trump administration and Congress.
February’s employment surges could indicate increased business confidence in Trump’s America, particularly after his announcement on Tuesday that “massive” tax cuts for businesses and individuals are coming.
Whether Trump can make America great again is yet to be seen, but the February jobs report released on Friday could hand him a great start.
PEAS IN A POD: ERDOGAN & PUTIN
Energy cooperation will top the agenda when the leaders of Turkey and Russia meet on Friday.
Last October, the two signed a deal to construct TurkStream – a pipeline passing under the Black Sea that will connect Russian gas fields to southern Europe. Already a transit point for two other major pipelines, TurkStream will make Turkey a major regional energy hub, giving it substantial geopolitical clout.
But the deal is contingent upon the continuation of friendly ties between Ankara and Moscow, which have been tested by opposing policies on Syria. Any rupture in relations caused by unintentional conflict between Russian and Turkish forces – both of which are active in the Syrian theatre – would be disastrous both for TurkStream and regional stability.
Friday’s meeting is likely to focus on avoiding such a scenario while maintaining pressure on ISIS. With the next round of intra-Syrian peace talks scheduled for March 20, exploratory talks on a political solution will also top the agenda.
Workers at one of the world’s largest copper mines will begin a five-day strike for better labour conditions. Peru’s Cerro Verde mine produces some 450,000 tonnes of copper a year.
The Northern Italian province of Liguria will vote on banning Islamic face veils from public institutions. The regional vote is being backed by the leader of right-wing Lega Nord, Matteo Salvini, who called it a “concrete initiative” but may also stir social tensions.
Malaysia’s cabinet will discuss trade relations with North Korea following the assassination of Kim Jong-nam in a Kuala Lumpur airport, allegedly ordered by Pyongyang.