Global Political Calendar: Xi holds talks with European leaders
Updated 16:13, 24-Mar-2019
By John Goodrich

President Xi Jinping ends his European tour in France, British MPs are set to consider alternative Brexit options, China-U.S. trade talks resume, and the U.S. move to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is in the spotlight.

Xi in Europe

President Xi's three-nation European trip got off to a bright start with Italy signing up to the Belt and Road Initiative – the first G7 country to do so – following discussions with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Talks in Monaco with Prince Albert II on Sunday – the first ever visit to the principality by a Chinese president – will be followed by a trip to France, where Xi will meet President Emmanuel Macron.

China-France cooperation agreements covering energy, transport, agriculture, finance, culture and technology are expected to be signed, and in an article published in Le Figaro on Saturday Xi urged "greater headway in our cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative."

Macron is also reported to have invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to a meeting on Tuesday, with trade and investment issues likely to be in focus ahead of a China-EU summit in Brussels in early April.

Pressure on May

Theresa May triggered Article 50 almost two years ago. Had all gone smoothly, the British prime minister would be leading her country out of the European Union on Friday.

All has not gone smoothly. May's job is under threat, her Brexit deal is unlikely to be passed, over 1 million people have taken to the streets calling for a second referendum and parliament will this week try to find a way forward.

EU leaders last week gave Britain more time to come up with a solution. That process begins in parliament on Monday and is likely to feature "indicative votes" – MPs voting on Brexit options they could live with, in an attempt to find a majority – at some point this week.

May also hopes to put a version of her Brexit deal to MPs again, but after her disastrous speech on Wednesday evening – pitting politicians against the people and infuriating MPs in the process – her chances of success have fallen further, and she is unlikely to call a vote without a good shot at victory.  

In fact, the prime minister will be battling to hold on to her job if Sunday newspaper reports are correct. Moves are said to be afoot to replace May with a caretaker to oversee departure from the EU, with de facto deputy prime minister David Lidington the favorite.

China-U.S. talks resume

The eighth round of high-level China-U.S. trade talks is scheduled to take place on March 28-29, with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin due in Beijing.

The ninth round will start soon after according to Gao Feng, the Ministry of Commerce spokesperson, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He expected to travel to Washington in early April. The U.S. delayed a further tariff rise in February after positive progress was made in negotiations, so eyes will be on the meetings for news of a substantive breakthrough.

The talks follow the China Development Forum (CDF) in Beijing, at which Apple CEO Tim Cook welcomed moves to open China's market and encouraged the country to go further. Speaking at the CDF on Sunday, Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng promised to further boost imports, shorten the negative list and facilitate customs clearance. 

Further discussion of China's opening-up and the trade tensions are likely at the Boao Forum for Asia, which begins in Hainan on Tuesday.

Trump and Netanyahu

Intrigue surrounds U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, land seized by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with a tweet that overturned decades of U.S. policy and drew criticism from around the world.  

The move seemed to catch all sides off guard, and concerns have been raised about the precedent now set. Trump said the land was of "critical strategic and security importance," but analysts don't believe it will make a difference on the ground and have suggested it could have broader consequences.

Perhaps some answers will come this week, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Washington, three weeks ahead of a general election, for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference and talks with Trump at the White House.

Day-by-day

Monday: Chinese President Xi Jinping visits France, U.S. President Donald Trump hosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the British parliament resumes talks on Brexit.

Tuesday: The Boao Forum for Asia begins in Hainan, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts talks with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, and the U.S. House of Representatives votes on overriding Trump's veto of a measure ending the border emergency.

Wednesday: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, property developer Felix Sater gives evidence about the Moscow Trump Tower at a House Intelligence Committee hearing, and the U.S. publishes monthly trade balance data.

Thursday: China-U.S. trade talks resume in Beijing, and Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Kyrgyzstan.

Friday: The Boao Forum for Asia wraps up in Hainan. 

Saturday: Zuzana Caputova and Maros Sefcovic face off in the second round of Slovakia's presidential election, a fourth presidential debate takes place in Indonesia, and Democratic 2020 candidate Beto O'Rourke holds a campaign launch rally in Texas.

Sunday: The Arab League summit begins in Tunisia, Ukrainians vote for a new president, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visits Israel, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan travels to Iraq.