Thursday Headlines

Treasury Secretary Cautions Against Overuse Of Sanctions
At the beginning of March, the State and Treasury Departments announced new unilateral sanctions would be imposed on North Korea for illicit nuclear and weapons proliferation efforts, including on North Korea’s Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry and the National Defense Commission.

The sanctions were imposed in coordination with a United Nations resolution condemning North Korea’s actions and were intended to send a “clear message,” according to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.   “The global community will not tolerate North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and there will be serious consequences until it modifies its reckless behavior,” Lew said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Particularly for the Obama administration, sanctions have been viewed as an instrumental tool against foreign countries, namely Iran, North Korea and Cuba. In a speech delivered yesterday that touched on the evolution of sanctions, Lew stressed importance of guarding against their misuse.

As effective as sanctions can be, he noted that they are not a no-cost tool and carry a risk of retaliation. Lew said that they should only be imposed when there is a significant threat to our national security, foreign policy, or economy, and then should be considered only when it is determined that the balance of costs and benefits is in the nation’s favor.

“And if they make the business environment too complicated—or unpredictable, or if they excessively interfere with the flow of funds worldwide, financial transactions may begin to move outside of the United States entirely—which could threaten the central role of the U.S. financial system globally, not to mention the effectiveness of our sanctions in the future,” said Lew.

Trade Critics Gaining Ground
Not since the World Trade Organization protests in the late 1990s has there been such a vocal and active opposition among the population to global trade deals. Presidential candidates from Bernie Sanders on the left to Donald Trump on the right have consistently railed against trade deals and attributed job losses in the manufacturing industry to those pacts. The new populism is being fueled, in part, by the firebrand anti-trade rhetoric.

However, Scott Lincicome argues in the latest National Review cover story that trade has certainly had an impact on manufacturing and textile sectors, but not to the degree that Sanders and Trump maintain.

According to Lincicome, there has been a loss of manufacturing jobs as a share of the U.S. work force since 1979, while the US has gained about 54 million jobs since 1980. And 30-plus million jobs were created after the signing of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization in the mid-1990s.

According to a study by the Peterson Institute, past global-trade liberalization through the WTO and other efforts have “generated between $2,800 and $5,000 in additional income for the average American and between $7,100 and $12,900 for the average household. The consumer gains from trade disproportionally accrue to America’s poor and middle class,” he writes.

Israel’s Outreach To Indonesia Complicated By Palestine Issue
In a move that may surprise some, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a normalization of relations with Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation.

Speaking with visiting journalists, the prime minister told the audience that he wanted to build on relationships with other Asian nations, including China and Japan, by improving ties with Indonesia on economic, as well as national security issues.

“Relations with the Arab world are also changing. Indeed, we are allies in the fight against radical Islam,” he said. “Relations between Israel and Indonesia must also change. The time has come to change our relations; the reasons that prevented this are no longer relevant and I hope that your visit will help with this.”

While he struck a positive and hopeful tone, leaders in Jakarta were not impressed by the outreach, nor by the reporters’ travel to Israel.

“We want to assert that Indonesia’s support and efforts to push for the independence of Palestine will not change,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said, according to The Jakarta Post.

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