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Forecast Podcast: US-Mexico security talks, G20 meets on Afghanistan, EU-Ukraine summit, Bali reopens, Pandora Papers

A highway sign reads "Welcome to South Dakota" and depicts Mount Rushmore.

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Show notes:

  • Mexican and U.S. officials are set to hold security talks on Friday in Mexico City.
  • Leaders from the world’s 20 largest economies will hold a virtual summit on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan after G20 chair Italy pressed for it. The session will focus on the ongoing humanitarian and economic crisis in the country that has worsened since the Taliban seized power.
  • EU diplomats will hold a summit with Ukraine on Tuesday to discuss a host of issues between the bloc and Kyiv.
  • Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali will reopen to some countries on Thursday after more than one year of tough restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Pandora Papers — an interview with Factal Senior Editor Sophie Perryer.

These stories and more are available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Irene Villora, David Wyllie, Alex Moore, Jess Fino and Sophie Perryer.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe


This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is October 7th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got high-level security talks between the US and Mexico, an extraordinary G20 meeting on Afghanistan, a summit with European Union and Ukraine, a partial reopening of Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali, and an update on the Pandora Papers. 

You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can also find a link to in the show notes.

U.S., Mexico to hold high-level security talks

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Mexican and U.S. officials are set to hold security talks in Mexico City on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland will be meeting with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and the government’s security cabinet with the goal of reaching a new cooperation deal to fight insecurity and violence. 

The talks are part of an agreement reached between the two countries during Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit last June. 

According to the Mexican foreign office, both administrations share a security vision focused on addressing the causes of violence from a new humanitarian approach.

Of course, successful talks and the signing of a new protocol would put an end to the Merida Initiative — a 2008 bilateral deal heavily focused on military response to drug-related violence. 

That initiative’s efficiency has been questioned recently due to the sharp increase of illicit drug use in both countries, the escalation of violence and arms trafficking. 

Mexico’s foreign minister recently said that officials are in the advanced stages of finalizing an agreement, which is expected to be signed at the end of the talks.

G20 extraordinary meeting on Afghanistan

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: Leaders from the world’s 20 largest economies will hold a virtual summit on Tuesday. They’ll be discussing the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan after Italy, which chairs the G20, pressed for it.

The session will focus on the ongoing humanitarian and economic crisis in the country that has worsened since the Taliban seized power.

As you recall, Taliban forces advanced through Afghanistan and moved into Kabul in July, then took over the Afghan government as its head, President Ashraf Ghani, fled the country. 

The “handover,” or “seizure,” of power saw a great deal of uncertainty in one of the world’s poorest countries with an airlift from Kabul airport moving more than 100,000 civilians before it was halted. 

Western powers have called on the new Taliban government to permit Afghan citizens to leave the country, a scenario that may be close given the Taliban-controlled Interior Ministry has begun issuing passports

Now, humanitarian issues are likely to top the agenda, with the Taliban’s track record on human rights violations, involvement with terrorist organizations and oppression of women expected to be key points. 

Of course, despite the change in government, Afghanistan remains cash-strapped and the United States rolled back some sanctions in an effort to get humanitarian aid into the country. 

Still, economic barriers have led to a crisis in legitimate exports, such as fruit and vegetables, with crops rotting because they cannot be sold outside the country. 

Finally, the G20 powers, joined by Qatar, will likely be looking for public and private assurances by the Taliban on numerous issues as an act of good faith before relations can be normalized.

EU-Ukraine summit

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: European Union diplomats will hold a summit with Ukraine on Tuesday to discuss a host of issues between the bloc and Kyiv.

The summit comes in the midst of significant turmoil in European energy markets, of which Ukraine has long been a prominent player. That’s due to its strategic location as a transit hub for Russian hydrocarbon exports to the continent. 

The summit also coincides with the pending completion of Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will allow Russia to export gas directly to Germany through the Baltic Sea, avoiding Ukrainian transit fees and diminishing Kyiv’s leverage over its rival. 

Nord Stream 2 has put Ukraine at odds with some EU countries, with Kyiv adamantly opposed to the pipeline.

Along with energy, EU and Ukrainian officials will also likely address the conflict in the Donbass region, which continues to grind on with no end in sight after over seven years of fighting. 

The two parties are expected to address Russia’s decision not to renew the OSCE observer mission’s mandate to patrol checkpoints along the line of contact.

Indonesia reopens Bali for some tourists

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali will reopen to some countries on Thursday after more than one year of tough restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The popular vacation destination, with its economy deeply dependent on tourism, has been closed to foreign travelers since April of last year after the country declared a state of emergency due to the pandemic. 

Last week, senior cabinet minister Luhut Pandjaitan announced people coming from China, New Zealand and Japan, among others, would be allowed to return to Bali

However, visitors are still required to quarantine for eight days at their own expense.

Indonesia was one of the Asian countries most affected by the virus, with 4 million cases and 142,000 deaths confirmed. 

Of course, in an effort to reopen the tourism sector, Bali has been striving to accelerate its coronavirus vaccination program, becoming one of Indonesia’s regions with the highest vaccination rates.

Pandora Papers

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on a huge leak of documents that’s been dubbed the Pandora Papers. For more on that I recently spoke with Factal Senior Editor Sophie Perryer.

JIMMY: Hi, Sophie. 

SOPHIE: Hey, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Alright, first could you maybe start off by just explaining what this document leak is all about? And how big is it?

SOPHIE: Sure. So the Pandora Papers are a trove of 11.9 million documents which were made public over last weekend. They reveal how a network of offshore shell companies and trusts in tax havens are being used by the rich and famous to conceal wealth and, in some cases, avoid tax. Now, the documents were obtained by the International Consortium of [Investigative] Journalists and reviewed by 650 reporters from organizations such as The Guardian, the BBC, and The Washington Post in the largest global investigation of its kind.

JIMMY: Fair to say these leaks are similar, or at least similar in a way, to the Panama Papers back in 2016?

SOPHIE: Yeah, the subject matter is similar, but this leak is on a much larger scale. So the Panama Papers involved just one source, the Panamanian offshore law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca. The Pandora Papers draw on leaked records from 14 offshore services firms located around the world.

JIMMY: You know, a lot of the headlines we’re seeing on these leaked papers have pointed out some pretty questionable activities by a lot of influential people. What are some of the big ones that have stood out to you?

SOPHIE: That’s right, Jimmy, over 100 billionaires and 35 world leaders are implicated in the leak. Now the most significant figures for me are Jordan’s King Abdullah II who is accused of amassing a secret $100 million property empire and Russia’s President Putin who is linked to a secret Monaco property allegedly acquired by a woman with whom he has a child. Both of those leaders and many other leaders named in the leak have denied any wrongdoing. The Czech Prime Minister [Andrej Babiš] who’s also implicated said the leak was designed to influence the results of Friday’s election, and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is also implicated as a result of some family money, and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is accused of having evaded a type of land tax called stamp duty when he purchased a London property as well.

JIMMY: You know, it’s such a vast number of records, and a huge number of reports on this, I’m sure we’ll be learning more and more about this in the weeks ahead, but what do you think folks should be watching for now?

SOPHIE: Well, governments around the world have pledged to investigate the Pandora Papers, particularly the UK after it was revealed that the Queen’s crown estate paid £67 million, that’s the equivalent of $91 million, to the Azerbaijani President Aliyev for property in London. The leak is also quite likely to raise questions for President Biden, as the US state of South Dakota is named as a leading tax haven. Now, that comes after Biden has pledged to bring greater transparency to the global financial system. And anti-corruption organization Transparency International said the leak “brings home the need to rein in the lawless offshore industry.” So expect to see more of that sort of rhetoric as further details come out about this leak.

JIMMY: Really interesting stuff, Sophie. Thanks very much for catching us up to speed.

SOPHIE: Of course, it’s my pleasure. 

JIMMY: Take care

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Irene Villora, David Wyllie, Alex Moore and Jess Fino. Our interview featured editor Sophie Perryer and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2021 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: A highway sign reads “Welcome to South Dakota” and depicts Mount Rushmore. Source: Steve Elliott.