Ones to Watch, 8 April 2019

Americas: Agreement to end two-month blockade at Peru’s Las Bambas copper mine reached

Sectors: extractive industries
Key Risks: force majeure; civil unrest; disruptive blockades; protests

In Peru, the indigenous Fuerabamba community agreed to end a two-month blockade affecting Chinese MMG’s Las Bambas copper mine exports and production in return for economic concessions. Shipments of copper concentrate have been disrupted since 25 February as protesters blocked access routes to the facility, which produces 2 per cent of global copper supply, since early February. Although the details of the agreement are still unclear, locals committed to lift the blockade on 8 April. The conflict escalated after Fuerabamba indigenous community leader Gregorio Rojas’s was arrested for allegedly extorting MMG. He was released on 29 March and immediately vowed to resume dialogue with the government and MMG. On 5 April the government announced plans to invest US$788m in the Apurimac region to ease the unrest. Despite the new agreement, the risk of disruptive action in the area will persist.

Asia-Pacific: Contracts and loan agreements with Philippines government to face review

Sectors: all
Key Risks: business environment

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte made some concerning statements on ‘onerous’ government contracts and loan agreements with private companies. On 1 April he ordered Cabinet to review all such contracts to ensure they do not put Filipinos at a disadvantage. His comments come after water concessionaire Maynilad won an arbitration case against the government over revenue losses due to the non-implementation of tariff hikes. The case was won on the back of contract provisions prohibiting government intervention, which Duterte has taken issue with. He has called for all government contracts with similar provisions to be reviewed and re-negotiated or rescinded. Loan agreements with China are also at risk of being targeted in government reviews, as many offer patrimonial assets as collateral. Beijing could seize natural gas deposits in the South China Sea if Manila fails to pay a US$62m Chinese loan.

Eurasia: Heavy fighting continues in Afghan districts bordering Turkmenistan

Sectors: all
Key Risks: conflict; terrorism

Heavy clashes continue in parts of Afghanistan’s Badghis province bordering Turkmenistan, which could pose a security threat to the largely-isolated state. On 6 April local media reported that the Afghan government had retaken the Badghis Ab Kamari district from the Taliban a day after it fell to the militants. However, the Taliban made further advances in the Murghab, located in the same province, and more than 30 soldiers were killed in clashes between 3 and 5 April. Several Badghis districts have seen intensified fighting in recent weeks. In March the Taliban abducted 100 security force members after they fled into Turkmenistan but were refused safe harbour. Turkmenistan has refused to comment but the sustained heavy fighting along its border is the most notable in years. Further large-scale attacks can be expected during the Taliban’s spring offensive.

Europe: Brexit turmoil continues

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability

On 8 April Britain’s opposition Labour Party said that it would continue talks with the government over a compromise with the ruling Conservatives over Brexit, though it remains likely they will be unable to reach a deal. There are just five days until the UK is due to leave the EU, but Prime Minister Theresa May has requested this be extended. EU leaders are due to meet on 10 April and there is a strong possibility the government and Parliament will not yet have found a way forward on Brexit. A no-deal Brexit on 12 April remains a major risk, although Parliament is expected to finalise passage of a bill that aims to legally rule-out such an eventuality, though it remains doubtful that May would revoke Article 50 without an express demand from Parliament to do so.

MENA: Israeli elections loom as challengers neck and neck in polls

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability

Israelis will go to vote in snap elections on 9 April as polls show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party leading Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party but that Netanyahu was polling behind Gantz. The election is widely seen as a referendum on the incumbent, who, if he wins will begin his fifth term in power, faciting indictments for fraud and breach of trust. In a bid to appeal to the right, Netanyahu promised to annex Israeli colonies in the West Bank if he is re-elected. Following the vote, coalition building, supervised by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will begin. No party is likely to achieve a majority. Rallies are likely to be witnessed across the country but election-related violence is not expected to escalate. There is however a risk Hamas could launch rockets from Gaza but fall-out from this will be contained.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Soldiers prevent dispersal of anti-government protesters in Sudan

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; political instability

In Sudan, soldiers blocked attempts by security forces to forcefully disperse protesters calling for President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation in a third day of sit-in protests outside a compound housing Bashir’s residence and the headquarters of the national intelligence service in Khartoum. The rally, reportedly the largest since anti-government protests began on 19 December, was largely peaceful, although one protester was killed by security forces on 6 April. The ruling NCP has indefinitely postponed a party conference to nominate Bashir as its candidate for the 2020 presidential election, indicating it might field another party stalwart instead. However, Bashir has thus far rejected calls to step down before the end of his current term. The army’s intervention lends credence to reports of crumbling support for Bashir among parts of Sudan’s powerful military. Although security forces have shown relative restraint, the risk of violent escalation remains high.