A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
All eyes will be on the Federal Reserve next week when it announces its interest rate decision on Wednesday (March 22). Fed chair Jerome Powell gave hawkish appearances before Congress earlier this month, suggesting the bank would be prepared to increase the rate of hikes if needed. Those remarks led to speculation a half-point rise could be on the cards next week instead of the quarter-point many had expected, but inflation data released this week – showing inflation continuing to decline in line with market predictions – has seen initial expectations return to the fore.
At a press conference after the announcement, Powell may face questions about the Fed’s planned review of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank after Senator Elizabeth Warren called for Powell to recuse himself, accusing him of having loosened regulations in a way that directly contributed to the bank’s collapse. He’ll likely also be asked about recent developments at Signature Bank and Swiss lender Credit Suisse which have done little to assuage nervousness among investors about the risk of contagion in the sector. Some reassurance came on Thursday, however, with the announcement of collective action from major US banks to shore up First Republic Bank with $30 billion in deposits, in a plan reportedly concocted by Powell and his predecessor and now Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Before that, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishes its sixth assessment report on Monday (March 20) ahead of the first global stocktake under the Paris Agreement later this year. The AR6 Synthesis Report brings together findings from research conducted since the last assessment in 2014, drawing on six landmark reports published between October 2018 and last April. Each of those prompted their own set of bleak headlines as political action failed to keep up with increasingly dire predictions: a warning that we only had 12 years to bring warming under 1.5°C in 2018 became ‘now or never’ by 2022, while special reports on oceans and land raised the spectres of food insecurity, wildfires and extreme storms that amounted to a ‘code red for humanity’. Monday’s report is expected to urge drastic action in the run-up to COP28 in Dubai to maintain the 1.5°C goal, something COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber can discuss with ministers meeting in Copenhagen on Monday and Tuesday (March 20-21) to set the course for the stocktake summit.
President Joe Biden will make his first visit to Canada since taking office when he pays a two-day trip to Ottawa next Thursday and Friday (March 23-24). His schedule includes talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as an address to Canadian lawmakers, during which he’s likely to reaffirm the two nations’ close ties. Biden and Trudeau are set to discuss defense, including the role of NORAD, trade and supply chains for critical minerals, climate change, and global issues including the war in Ukraine and the crisis in Haiti. Trudeau will be hoping the visit provides some welcome relief from a lingering scandal over alleged Chinese efforts to influence Canadian elections in favor of his Liberal party.
Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a three-day state visit to Russia on Monday (March 20) for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the conflict in Ukraine, with plans to speak with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy after the trip reportedly in the works. The two leaders will meet informally on Monday before the main talks on Tuesday (March 21), after which there will be a signing ceremony and statements to press as well as a state dinner in the evening. The visit comes shortly after China surprised many by announcing it had brokered a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran on restoring ties, the latest sign of the country’s growing assertiveness as a diplomatic power. It also follows a visit by top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi to Moscow towards the end of February, the last stop on a tour of European cities that notably did not include Kyiv.
Indeed, a potential obstacle to Chinese efforts to broker peace in Ukraine is the fact that China’s self-proclaimed neutrality in the conflict is undermined by its close relationship with Russia, including buying record amounts of discounted Russian oil since the start of the conflict. China’s 12-point peace proposal, released on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, contains no reference to the status of Russian-annexed parts of Ukraine, despite insisting the territorial integrity of all countries must be upheld, and calls for end to ‘unilateral’ sanctions against Russia. On the other hand, some argue that China presenting itself as an honest broker makes it much less likely that it will provide military support to Russia, something the US has claimed China is considering.
Ukraine will also be front and center of discussions at the latest gathering of EU leaders in Brussels next Thursday and Friday (March 23-24). European nations are currently negotiating an agreement, said to be worth €2 billion ($2.1 billion), to restock Ukraine’s dwindling ammunition supplies, which is set to be discussed on Monday (March 20) at a joint meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers before a planned final sign off by leaders later in the week.
In the UK, the spotlight will be on Westminster on Wednesday (March 22) when, after almost a year of waiting, former prime minister Boris Johnson’s day of reckoning with the Commons privileges committee finally arrives. The inquiry into the Partygate scandal has been working away as Johnson flirted with comebacks during recent Conservative Party regime changes, but he now faces a real fight to convince the committee he did not mislead Parliament and give himself the opportunity to one day fulfil his own prophecy of a dramatic return to power. If the committee finds that Johnson did lie to Parliament, he faces a suspension which could trigger a recall petition and eventual by-election, though the sanction would have to be approved by the House first, where Johnson still has vocal allies who are unafraid to create trouble for the ruling Conservative party.