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  • Author: Éric-André Martin
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Restrictive measures are a major instrument of the European Union (EU)’s external action, which has emerged as one of the world’s leading sanctions emitters. The EU has thus leveraged the size of its market and its economic and financial clout (trade relations, aid policy and bilateral agreements). Through its significant activity in the field of sanctions, the EU has been able to reinforce its image as a normative power and a global player, contributing actively to international peace and stability. The EU’s restrictive measures were adopted in a favorable international context, marked by the legitimacy that was conferred, most of the time, by United Nations resolutions, and by close coordination with the United States (US). This privileged period culminated with the management of the Iranian crisis and the conclusion of the 2015 Vienna Agreement. More recently, however, sanctions have tended to lose their function as an instrument contributing to shape a shared vision of the world order, and to become what they are in essence, namely an instrument of statecraft dedicated to the protection of States’ national interests. This trend is illustrated on the one hand by the affirmation of a unilateral United States policy on sanctions, which tends to extend the scope of coercion to third parties, including European entities, and on the other hand, by the increasing use of sanctions by powers like China and Russia as a geo-economic tool.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, Power Politics, Sanctions, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, European Union
  • Author: Alice Ekman
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: “Smart city” development has become a fashionable policy and research topic. A growing number of central and local governments in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, in partnership with companies from diverse sectors (construction, transport, energy, water, etc), consulting firms, NGOs and experts, are now developing smart-city-related projects. This report looks at the smart city from a broader, geopolitical perspective, and considers it, for the first time, as a potential area of geopolitical competition between countries. This approach is relevant given the strategic nature of the infrastructure involved in smart-city development (telecommunication and energy grids, mobile networks, data centers, etc). It is also relevant at a time of prolonged tensions between China and the United States – a period during which 5G and other technologies that are key to developing smart cities are generating global debate and diverging positions across countries.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, Urbanization, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Smart Cities
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Sylvie Cornot-Gandolphe
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: China’s gas industry has been moving into a new era. China’s natural gas demand has skyrocketed amid a state campaign that encourages coal-to-gas switching. In just two years, China added 75 billion cubic meters (bcm) to global gas demand, the equivalent of the UK gas market, the second largest European market. Despite steadily rising, Chinese gas production has not been able to cope with such a huge increase in demand and gas imports have also surged.
  • Topic: Security, Climate Change, Energy Policy, Gas, Renewable Energy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Sylvie Cornot-Gandolphe
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: The major transformations that are occurring on the Chinese gas market have profound repercussions on the global gas and LNG markets, especially on trade, investment and prices. In just two years, China has become the world’s first gas importer and is on track to become the largest importer of Liquefied natural gas (LNG). China alone explained 63% of the net global LNG demand growth in 2018 and now accounts for 17% of global LNG imports. The pace and scale of China’s LNG imports have reshaped the global LNG market. Over the past two years, fears of an LNG supply glut have largely been replaced by warnings that the lack of investments in new LNG capacity would lead to a supply shortage in the mid-2020s unless more LNG production project commitments are made soon. There is now a bullish outlook for future global LNG demand which has encouraged companies to sanction additional LNG projects, based on the anticipated supply shortage. China’s gas imports can be expected to continue to grow strongly, from 120 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2018 to up to 300 bcm by 2030.
  • Topic: Security, Energy Policy, International Trade and Finance, Gas
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Eugénie Joltreau
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: The world plastic production has been multiplied by 23 since 1964 to reach 348 million tonnes (mt) in 2017. This production level is expected to double in the next 20 years, largely because of the significant growth in plastic consumption in developing countries. Today, China is the largest producer of plastics (representing nearly 30% of global production) and the European Union (EU) comes second (18.5%) with 64 mt. About 40% of plastics are single use, and thus quickly accumulate as waste. For example, in the EU, plastic packaging waste accounts for more than 60% of the total plastic waste generated each year (16.3 mt in 2016). Since the 2000s, the backbone of the EU’s waste management policy has been to define mandatory recycling objectives along with a reverse financing scheme requiring producers to take over a significant part of their products’ waste management costs. In line with these objectives, the European recycling rate for plastic packaging waste should reach 50% by 2025, against about 42% in 2016 (6.9 mt). In the EU, 30% of total plastics were collected for recycling (in 2016), and half of it was exported for recycling, mainly to China. Yet in 2017, China announced a ban on the importation of almost all plastic waste effective as of early 2018. Since then, over-dependence on China for recycling plastics has put the global recycling industry in crisis. Without the possibility to export their waste, the ability of the EU and other developed economies to reach ambitious recycling objectives is called into question. It also sheds light on the limits of plastic recycling and of low-cost recycling strategies.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Environment, Sanitation, Recycling
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, European Union
  • Author: Sylvie Cornot-Gandolphe, Jean-François Boittin
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Under particular US legal rationale, such as calling foreign imports a “national security threat”, President Donald Trump has started imposing tariffs and/or quotas and has launched national security investigations on a growing number of imported goods from US allies and others alike.In March and June 2018, the US imposed tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminium on all trading partners, but Australia. In July and August 2018, the US began imposing tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese industrial goods on the ground of unfair trade practices. As China has retaliated with tit-for-tat measures, President Trump has imposed tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 24 September 2018 onwards, and in an unprecedented escalation of his trade war with China, he has also threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $267 billion in Chinese goods. If eventually carried out, Trump’s latest threat could result in tariffs on all Chinese goods entering the US. China has retaliated and imposed tariffs on $60 billion in US goods, including a 10% duty on liquefied natural gas (LNG). For the time being, trade tensions have had a limited impact on the energy market. But the new round of US tariffs and retaliation measures by China suggest that this is going to change.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, International Trade and Finance, Gas, Renewable Energy, Coal
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America