CUTS Washington Monthly Brief
#24, March 2020
Time for a rules-based global architecture amid and after COVID-19
The novel Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has raised major concerns for the management of global public goods, particularly those surrounding public health. Apparently, after China, the U.S. has become the new epicentre of COVID-19 with more than 140,000 confirmed cases. The U.S. administration on March 29th has even reported troubling mortality estimates of up to 200,000 deaths. That, if not prevented, will horrendously exceed the worst mortality of more than 10,000 deaths by far in Italy. American experts have even cautioned that COVID-19 could ‘possibly become a seasonal cyclic thing’ and could last till 2025 after an initial pandemic wave.
As an aftermath of this global pandemic, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has estimated that the global economic loss could be to the tune of US$2tn and indicated a drop in foreign direct investments by 30 to 40 per cent this year. World over countries will be further constrained to roll out rapid, scalable protection and counter measures to stem its health and economic impacts.
Governments in the U.S., Europe, the U.K. and India, among others, have even declared extraordinary counter measures and relief funds. Even more, the modern telecommunication technologies have inspired the world leaders to come together to take stock of the crisis, exchange experiences and coordinate regional and multilateral efforts. Examples include initiatives declared at the virtual summits of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Group of 20 major economies of the world on March 15th and March 26th, respectively.
Moreover, in the words of Angel Gurría, Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the global efforts should focus on making economies resilient, more importantly protect their healthcare systems from current and future shocks.
While it is time for a rules-based global architecture to address current and future challenges regarding the management of global public goods, the U.S. sanctions on Iran, among others, could risk the pandemic to worsen. Iran is one of the worst affected countries from COVID-19 and instead of easing out the sanctions, the U.S. on March 19th has tightened them brazenly. When countries are taking unprecedented measures in their fight against COVID-19, the Trump Administration should have shown some compassion for the Iranian people. It would otherwise make the region prone to larger humanitarian and geo-political crisis, with security risks.
Finally, while there is a galore of rules, mechanisms for greater accountability on the part of countries as well as regional/global bodies to deal with future crises are too weak. We need to realign our thinking as a universal brotherhood. The virus has not made any distinctions.
Pradeep S. Mehta

P. S. Can India, with stringent country-wide lockdowns yet with meagre testing capabilities and equipment, win the fight against COVID-19?

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The Future 'Trade War' Is Digital: It's Here And It's Hidden
While the U.S. has been focused on the turmoil of presidential politics and the discord of trade war sanctions with China, a digital trade war is quietly taking shape. I believe the impact of the coronavirus will embolden this actual trade war as people stay quarantined in their homes and drive the economics via applications and data on the internet.

Immigrant body urges Trump to address long sufferings of H-1B visa holders
A nonprofit body, representing high skilled immigrants from India, has urged President Donald Trump to address their long sufferings of H-1B visa holders by accelerating the pace of Green Card or legal permanent residency and remove bureaucratic, legal hurdles from the most-sought after work visa.
Namaste Trump: From Taj to Trade
A much hyped visit of the U.S. President Donald Trump to India on February 24-25 was marred by lack of clarity on trade and economic relations but, among other things, provided substantial direction on defence and energy fronts. This follow up edition of the CUTS WDC Occasional News Wrap (ONW) series provides a glimpse of the latest developments in the Indo-U.S. corridor. The first edition of this ONW is also made available on the CUTS WDC website ( under the ‘’Knowledge Hub’’ section.

Let's keep ships moving, ports open and cross-border trade flowing
As the world battles the coronavirus pandemic, the global maritime transport industry is playing a critical role in the response. A call by the industry to all governments to keep maritime trade moving by allowing commercial ships continued access to ports worldwide and by facilitating the rapid changeover of ships’ crews should not go unheeded.


IEA calls for clean energy response to COVID-19 crisis
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called on governments to put clean energy technologies at the heart of economic stimulus packages drawn up in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The agency is concerned that policy makers could lose sight of long-term climate change goals as they develop responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Battery Storage Paves Way for a Renewable-powered Future
Battery storage systems are emerging as one of the key solutions to effectively integrate high shares of solar and wind renewables in power systems worldwide. A recent analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) illustrates how electricity storage technologies can be used for a variety of applications in the power sector, from e-mobility and behind-the-meter applications to utility-scale use cases.

China Boasts of ‘World Record’ Gas Extraction in South China Sea
China extracted 861,400 cubic meters of natural gas from methane hydrate, known as “flammable ice,” during a one-month trial production in the South China Sea, Chinese state media reported on March 26. The gas was allegedly extracted from a depth of about 1,225 meters in an area in the north of the highly contested body of water.
Welcome to a Truly Free Oil Market
At the point we’re now at, postponing the oil-price war won’t make a lot of difference for an industry that’s already breaking down under the weight of demand destruction. It’s too late to use diplomacy and artful negotiations to share the burden of output cuts that are now inevitable.


Diplomatic challenges from the Muslim world
The last few weeks have witnessed an extraordinary phenomenon—strident criticisms from foreign governments of certain policy measures taken by the Indian government. While these sharp rebukes have come from a variety of international sources, what has been surprising are the remarks of leaders of three major Muslim countries—Iran, Turkey and Malaysia.
US military operations in South China Sea increase risk of confrontation
The United States intensified its military activity in the South China Sea last year, raising the risk of a confrontation with China in the strategically important waters, according to a Beijing-based think tank. The US conducted eight so-called freedom of navigation operations in the year – three more than in 2018 – during which its vessels sailed within 12 nautical miles of land claimed or occupied by China, according to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative’s annual report.
In a first, India figures on arms exporters list
In a first, India has figured on a list of global arms exporters, making a modest entry at number 23 but the ranking is likely to rise sharply over the coming years with the government’s focus on encouraging weapons sales abroad. The latest data on global arms transfer by SIPRI shows that Indian arms imports have come down significantly (by 32%) since 2015, indicating that the ‘Make in India’ initiative is gaining ground but the country is still ranked as the world’s second biggest weapons buyers, just behind Saudi Arabia.

India’s Act East policy is slowing becoming Act Indo-Pacific policy under Modi government
India has embarked on a period of radical changes in its foreign and economic policies. People argue about whether these changes have gone too far or not far enough. But, the changes in the international affairs have been perhaps less dramatic but in numerous cases little less sweeping. The causes are also been similar.


American business chamber calls for second round of measures from govt
As analysts weigh the economic impact of the 21-day lockdown and the Rs.1700bn (US$22bn) package announced by the government on Thursday, an American business chamber said there is a need for a second round of measures to support businesses that are heavily impacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Post-Coronavirus Pandemic World Order: Can Globalisation Regain Its Footprint?
In the recorded history, many civilizations, regimes, and empires had come to an end given the natural calamities or pandemics like COVID-19. Covering about 190 countries, killing about 15000 people (and counting), infecting about more than three hundred thousand people, COVID-19 has been declared as pandemic on 11 March by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
US will work alongside India to combat coronavirus outbreak, says Alice Wells
Senior US diplomat Alice Wells on March 26 echoed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to keep fighting spirits high against the coronavirus pandemic, saying that United States will work alongside India to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. "We stand united with India and echo Narendra Modi's call to keep up our fighting spirits. The US will work shoulder to shoulder with India to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Together, we can safeguard our citizens and people everywhere," the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) wrote on Twitter quoting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Alice Wells.

Plagues Tell Us Who We Are
A pandemic will expose the failures of a government that does not invest in the health of its constituents or address the collective risks that arise when vulnerable groups lack health protections. For such a society, taking those lessons and applying them to reduce the risks of future contagion is surely the better of two possible outcomes.