Global Political Calendar: China and U.S. at the negotiating table
By John Goodrich

A busy diplomatic week is headlined by the resumption of China-U.S. trade talks and a series of high profile meetings on the Middle East, while Nigeria will vote in presidential elections, a new deadline looms in the U.S. shutdown drama and Europe could be set for an eventful few days.

Back at the table

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will host trade talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Beijing on Thursday and Friday, with lower level discussions expected to begin on Monday. The U.S. delegation also includes David Malpass, Washington's nominee to be the next president of the World Bank.

The fresh negotiations take place with the clock ticking towards a March 1 deadline, after which the U.S. has threatened to increase tariffs on Chinese imports worth 200 billion U.S. dollars if a deal is not agreed.

Shut down again?

The latest installment of the U.S. shutdown drama will reach a climax this week, with new legislation facing a Friday deadline to avert another partial closure of the government.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers are reported to be edging closer to an agreement that would fund "physical barriers" on the U.S.-Mexico border, rather than a wall. Neither Republicans nor Democrats in Congress are keen on another shutdown, but they must put forward a plan President Donald Trump is willing to sign.

The legislation needs to be filed on Monday to have a chance of being passed through Congress by Friday's deadline, making Trump's planned rally in El Paso, Texas – on the U.S.-Mexico border – on Monday evening an intriguing spectacle.

Nigeria votes

Nigeria is gearing up for major elections on Saturday, with a record 84 million voters registered to choose a president and National Assembly in Africa's most populous nation.

Sitting President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72, are the leading contenders for the top job, in a field of 73, in what is expected to be a tight contest. Unemployment and security have been key issues in an election cycle which also involves 6,483 candidates for 109 seats in the Senate and 360 in the House of Representatives.

Talking Middle East

The global diplomatic community will be out in force this week, with the Middle East in the spotlight.

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Sochi for Syria talks on Thursday, while on Wednesday the situation in the broader region will be discussed when Mike Pence, the U.S. vice president, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the expected guests at a Middle East-focused conference in Warsaw.

And, after a NATO defense ministers meeting on Wednesday, on Friday the annual Munich Security Conference, drawing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi among other leaders, will get underway.

Eventful Europe

The latest Brexit developments and the ongoing spat between Italy and France, which last week recalled its ambassador to Rome, will be closely watched this week in Europe and events in Spain will also be under the microscope.

The Spanish parliament will vote on Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's budget bill for 2019 on Wednesday, but his minority government is expected to require the support of Catalan pro-independence leaders to win the vote. So far an agreement has not been reached, and doing so is complicated by the start of the trial of 12 jailed pro-independence figures in Madrid on Tuesday.


Monday: A U.S. delegation is due in Beijing ahead of trade talks, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu visits India, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo begins a five-day tour of Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belgium and Iceland, high-level EU-UK talks on Brexit recommence in Brussels, and U.S. President Donald Trump addresses a rally in El Paso.

Tuesday: Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak goes on trial for corruption, Cobra Gold military exercises begin in Thailand, Italian PM Giuseppe Conte gives a speech on the future of the EU, and 12 Catalan pro-independence figures go on trial in Madrid.

Wednesday: U.S. President Donald Trump and Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez hold talks, Spanish MPs vote on the government's 2019 budget bill, British PM Theresa May updates parliament on Brexit, NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu are in Poland for a conference focused on the Middle East.

Thursday: Chinese and U.S. officials hold high-level talks on trade in Beijing, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, and the British parliament will debate Brexit and may hold votes on amendments.

Friday: The deadline for another U.S. government shutdown arrives, and the Munich Security Conference 2019 begins.

Saturday: Presidential and parliamentary elections in Nigeria are held, and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected to visit Pakistan.

Sunday: Indonesian presidential candidates debate ahead of April's election, Argentine President Mauricio Macri visits India, and Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili travels to France.