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Forecast: U.S. voters head to poll for midterms, Egypt hosts COP27, and Russia rejoins key Ukraine grain export deal

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Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

After unilaterally suspending its involvement in a Ukraine grain export deal last week, Russia reversed course Wednesday and said it would rejoin the agreement. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Regional Editor Alex Moore discuss the importance of the Black Sea grain deal and what to watch for next.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of Nov. 4-11
A Look Ahead

Nov. 4 – German chancellor visits China  

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit China on Friday, marking the first official visit by a European Union leader to the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

What’s happened so far 
After weeks of speculation, Scholz confirmed he would be visiting China with a delegation of business executives, where he is expected to hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. The visit comes just weeks after Xi was elected for an unprecedented third term, strengthening his political power. German officials have said the chancellor will address human rights concerns and trade practices.

The impact 
Scholz’s decision to visit China received fierce criticism both internally and from other EU countries. The relationship between German and French leaders deteriorated following the announcement, as French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly hoped to take the trip with Scholz. Some analysts suggest Scholz’s visit shortly after Xi’s controversial election win could be seen as Germany legitimizing it. The trip also follows controversy over the Hamburg port deal, after the German cabinet allowed China’s COSCO to buy a stake in a terminal despite concerns the deal would increase Chinese influence over critical infrastructure.

Nov. 6 – COP27 in Egypt

Egypt will host the COP27 climate summit in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh starting on Sunday, the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

What’s happened so far 
According to the U.N., average global temperatures have risen nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius in the last 200 years and could rise significantly past the 1.5 degrees that countries pledged to stay below. The summit will focus on three main areas: reducing emissions, preparing and dealing with climate change, and assisting developing countries with the effects of global warming. More than 200 countries were invited to attend, but some leaders are not expected to, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The impact 
COP27 will mark the fifth time the summit has been in Africa, with Egypt hoping to draw attention to the severe impacts climate change has had on the continent. According to a 2022 report, approximately 16.7 million people are facing acute food insecurity in East Africa due to droughts. Egypt as a host country, however, has also drawn criticism from climate activists, including Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, who said she will not attend the talks. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are among several organizations calling for the country to “open civic space and free political prisoners” before the start of the COP27 summit.

Nov. 6 – South Korea to participate in Japan’s naval fleet review

South Korea will join Japan’s triennial international fleet review Sunday for the first time in seven years, as the countries work to improve bilateral ties despite historical tensions amid increased North Korean and Chinese military activity.

What’s happened so far 
While relations between South Korea and Japan were strained during former South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s time in office, but both countries have attempted to mend ties since new President Yoon Suk-yeol’s inauguration in May. Alongside the United States, the two countries staged anti-submarine exercises off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast in late September. China will not participate in the review, and Russia’s invitation was rescinded after its invasion of Ukraine.

The impact 
South Korea’s participation in Japan’s naval review is unlikely to result in any major change to already-icy relations with China and North Korea. It is more likely to cause domestic political friction in South Korea, where many are opposed to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s use of the “rising sun” flag as a symbol of its imperialist history.

Nov. 7 – Birds and poultry ordered to be kept indoors in UK 

Starting Monday, all British farmers and bird owners will have to keep their poultry indoors following alarming growth in bird flu cases. 

What’s happened so far 
With approximately 190 cases of bird flu across the United Kingdom in the last year — 80 in the last month alone — U.K. authorities introduced a requirement for all birds to remain inside and strict biosecurity measures on staff around poultry. Large-scale poultry distributors are hit particularly hard, with millions of birds culled this year in an effort to protect larger flocks. Announced Oct. 31, bird owners have had a week to prepare for the new requirements.

The impact 
The decision by U.K. health authorities comes amid fears of widespread goose shortages for Christmas if the disease continues to spread and prices increase further. The country’s chief veterinary officer said it is “the largest ever outbreak of bird flu.” Earlier this year, France eased restrictions while trying an experimental vaccine on poultry, but there are concerns the vaccine doesn’t work to block the spread of the disease. 

Nov. 8 – U.S. midterm elections

The balance of power in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will be determined Tuesday, as voters across the country weigh in on a slew of key federal races, along with various state gubernatorial and legislative contests.

What’s happened so far 
Since the 2020 election, Democrats have held a federal trifecta with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. But while Democratic party leaders are campaigning on legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act and their promises to protect abortion rights in the wake of the Dobbs decision, Republicans have claimed Democratic policies are behind rising prices and crime rates. If they take control of Congress, Republicans pledged to obstruct President Joe Biden’s agenda in the final two years of his term.

The impact 
Most political analysts are predicting the GOP will take control of the House, while the potential Senate majority remains unclear, with polls showing races within the margin of error in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona, and close contests in Ohio, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Federal officials have also expressed concern over the threat of violence by domestic extremists in connection with claims of election fraud, a fear underlined in recent days by a group of ballot watchers in Arizona seen standing guard near drop boxes and taking photos or videos as voters dropped off their ballot.

Nov. 8 – ASEAN summits in Cambodia

Cambodia is set to host world leaders in Phnom Penh on Tuesday for the ASEAN summits and related meetings, with the Myanmar crisis likely one of the central topics.

What’s happened so far 
The summits come after concerns over continued violence in Myanmar and the efficacy of the peace process prompted an emergency meeting of ASEAN countries in Indonesia last week. Human Rights Watch has called on all attendees of the upcoming summits in Asia to support tougher sanctions “and other measures” to address abuses by the Myanmar junta, whose leader was not invited to the meeting of the 10-country bloc. In addition, Cambodia also offered to host talks between Russia and Ukraine during the summit, though neither have accepted.  

The impact 
It’s a crucial point for the bloc, which has recently faced criticism over its approach to resolving the conflict in Myanmar and ending its brutal military crackdown. U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to attend as America seeks to reaffirm its commitment to the Southeast Asian region in a burgeoning political tug of war with China.

What Else Matters

Brazil's former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva celebrates victory with dozens of supporters. da Silva's companions are holding the flag of Brazil in front of him.
Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the country’s elections in the second round this past weekend, defeating President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo: Lula Oficial / Flickr)

Black Sea grain deal

Just days after announcing its withdrawal from the deal, Moscow resumed its involvement in the crucial U.N.-mediated pact to allow the shipment of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. The agreement, which also involves Turkey and was reached three months ago, freed up crucial grain shipments from Ukraine, one of the world’s largest suppliers that were initially halted by Russia’s February invasion. The most significant diplomatic breakthrough since the invasion, the agreement created a protected corridor for grain shipments through the Black Sea, alleviating severe stresses on global food security, particularly for a number of developing countries.

Watch for: While Russia suspended its involvement in the agreement after alleging Ukraine attacked naval vessels in Sevastopol, grain shipments did continue in the following days, leaving open the question of how Russia intended to enforce its closure of the Black Sea. Moscow has rejoined the agreement for now, but efforts to extend the deal past the Nov. 19 expiration deadline remain elusive, despite U.N. attempts to prolong the pact. The stakes of an extension are high, with food security impacts extending across Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.

Brazil election aftermath

Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — a former trade union leader who served two terms between 2003 and 2011— won the country’s elections (members’ link) on Oct. 30 following a tight race with far-right contender and incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. Lula was allowed to run again after Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court overturned the corruption sentences that put him in jail in April 2018 for more than 500 days. Lula won with more than 50 percent of the votes after four years of deep polarization among Brazilians. Bolsonaro, who consistently threatened to not recognize the election results on claims of electoral fraud, did not concede or specifically acknowledge his loss in his first public appearance since the vote. Shortly after the results were made public, Bolsonaro supporters blocked roads and highways across the country in protest, a move Bolsonaro encouraged on multiple occasions prior to the vote.  

Watch for: Lula’s voters expect the leftist leader to bring about radical changes on issues like environmental policies, protection of vulnerable groups and fiscal policies after Bolsonaro’s ultra-liberal approach resulted in a record deforestation of the Amazon forest and the world’s second-highest mortality rate during the coronavirus pandemic, especially among low-income communities that had been striped off benefits during his administration. Lula inherits a delicate economic situation after nearly 10 years of recession that developed during Dilma Roussef’s presidency in 2014, a global pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The newly elected president promised to boost government spending on social benefits and higher taxes on wealth. Lula’s victory follows a new turn to the left in Latin American politics, with progressive leaders elected in seven countries in the region since 2018. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Nov. 4-11 

Nov. 4

  • Russia’s Unity Day
  • German chancellor visits China

Nov. 5

  • UK rail union RMT to take strike action

Nov. 6

  • COP27 in Egypt
  • UK to reverse payroll tax rise
  • Japanese naval fleet review

Nov. 7

  • Eurogroup meeting
  • UK rail union RMT to take strike action
  • Birds and poultry ordered to be kept indoors in UK

Nov. 8

  • U.S. midterm elections
  • 40th and 41st ASEAN summits in Cambodia

Nov. 9

  • UK rail union RMT to take strike action

Nov. 10

  • French trade union confederation CGT calls for strikes

Nov. 11

  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to visit India

Nov. 12

  • Bahraini Council of Representatives election

Nov. 12-18 

Nov. 13

  • Lebanon holds parliament session to elect new head of state
  • Slovenia presidential election runoff 

Nov. 14

  • EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting

Nov. 15

  • NASA Artemis I moon mission launch attempt
  • Indonesia hosts G20 Summit on island of Bali 

Nov. 17 

  • Dutch verdict in flight MH17 trial
  • Portuguese nurses strike
  • UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gives economic statement
  • APEC ministerial meeting

Nov. 18

  • Portuguese trade union Frente Comum national strike for public sector workers

Nov. 19-25

Nov. 19

  • Malaysia national elections

Nov. 20 

  • Nepal general election
  • World Cup starts in Qatar
  • Kazakhstan presidential elections
  • Elections in Equatorial Guinea

Nov. 21

  • ASEAN defense ministers meeting 

Nov. 22

  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits UK

Nov. 23

  • UK medium-term fiscal plan

Nov. 25

  • International day for elimination of violence against women

Nov. 26-Dec. 2 

Nov. 26 

  • Taiwan holds mayoral elections

Nov. 29

  • NATO foreign ministers meet in Bucharest 
  • Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will visit Japan

Dec. 1

  • World AIDS Day
  • President Biden hosts French President Macron at White House

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