South Africa’s critical test

This year, the African National Congress – which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid – picks a new leader. But their embattled president, Jacob Zuma, will leave a legacy of scandal, corruption allegations and a sluggish economy. Gideon Rachman discusses the future of Africa’s largest economy with the FT’s Africa editor David Pilling, and South Africa correspondent Joseph Cotterill.

By Gideon Rachman

Donald Trump’s travails with his “Muslim ban” make it easy to dismiss the whole idea as an aberration that will swiftly be consigned to history by the judicial system and the court of public opinion. But that would be a misreading. The ban on migrants and refugees from seven mainly Muslim countries was put together clumsily and executed cruelly. But it responded to a hostility to Islam and a craving for security and cultural homogeneity that is finding adherents across the western world — and not just on the far right.

The fate of the euro

With economic growth reviving in the eurozone, is the euro crisis now over, or is this just a lull before another euro storm? Gideon Rachman puts the question to Claire Jones, FT correspondent in Frankfurt, and Martin Sandbu, economics commentator.

Trump travel ban sparks global backlash

Donald Trump’s controversial visa ban has led to chaos at airports and condemnation from abroad. What are the consequences – at home and overseas – of this unprecedented move by the new president? Daniel Dombey, the FT’s deputy world news editor, discusses the question with Washington bureau chief Demetri Sevastopulo and Erika Solomon, Middle East correspondent.

By Gideon Rachman

For the most ardent supporters of Brexit, the election of Donald Trump was a mixture of vindication and salvation. The president of the US, no less, thinks it is a great idea for Britain to leave the EU. Even better, he seems to offer an exciting escape route. The UK can leap off the rotting raft of the EU and on to the gleaming battleship HMS Anglosphere.

France decides: battle for Élysée takes shape

The list of contenders for France’s 2017 election will be finalised this week, as the socialists choose their candidate on Sunday. Gideon Rachman discusses what is set to be an unpredictable and closely fought battle for the presidency with Anne-Sylvaine Chassany, the FT’s Paris bureau chief, and former bureau chief Hugh Carnegy.

By Gideon Rachman

The man from the BBC was laughing as he reported the White House’s false claims about the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration. He should have been crying. What we are witnessing is the destruction of the credibility of the American government.

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Donald Trump has been sworn in as the 45th US president on Friday in a ceremony in Washington DC where he told the crowds in capital “the time of empty talking is over”. In a typically strident address, he declared: “America will start winning again like never before.”

Key points

  • Trump delivers a short inaugural address promising to bring back jobs and “our borders”
  • The Obamas left Washington for a break in Palm Springs, California
  • An annotated version of Trump’s speech can be found here

By Mark Odell and Emiliya Mychasuk

 

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The moment has finally arrived. Today Donald Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. Before too long, it will become clear just how much of the blustery rhetoric he directed towards Latin America, especially Mexico, should be taken seriously. Read more

EPA

The European Central Bank has left interest rates and its quantitative easing programme unchanged.

Key points

  • ECB holds main rate at 0.00%, deposit facility at -0.40%
  • QE bond buying programme to continue until at least end of 2017
  • Level of QE to drop from €80bn to €60bn per month from April as previously announced
  • Press conference starts at 13:30 GMT

By Gemma Tetlow and Elaine Moore

 

Trade, Trump and Brexit

This week, UK prime minister Theresa May laid out her plans for a ‘hard’ Brexit, as US president-elect Donald Trump expressed doubts about the EU’s future and promised a ‘quick’ US-UK trade deal. How feasible would such a deal be? And is the west retreating from a free trade model that has taken decades to roll out? Daniel Dombey, the FT’s Brexit editor, discusses with Brussels bureau chief Alex Barker and FT world trade editor Shawn Donnan.

By Gideon Rachman

The questions surrounding Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia are lurid and compelling. But they are distracting from a more important and more dangerous story: the growing signs that the Trump administration is heading for a clash with China — one that could even lead to military conflict.

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Scrutiny of the incoming US administration intensified on Wednesday. President-elect Donald Trump held his first formal press conference in New York and confirmation hearings for his cabinet choices continued in the Senate. There, the focus was on Rex Tillerson, the long-serving Exxon Mobil chief executive, who has been nominated for secretary of state.

Key developments

  • At his press conference, Mr Trump hit out at fresh claims about his ties to the Kremlin and detailed how he plans to separate his business interests to avoid a conflict of interests.
  • Mr Trump gave his strongest indication yet that he believes Russia was behind the hacking during the election.
  • Pharma stocks fell after Mr Trump targeted the industry over drug pricing. The peso also whipsawed after his comments on a ‘major border tax’.
  • In DC, Mr Tillerson was pushed hard by senators on the foreign relations committee regarding his ties to Russia.
  • The confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for attorney-general also continued, with prominent civil rights leaders testifying against him.

Additional reporting by Ed Crooks.

 

Trump’s confirmation hearings: nominees in the spotlight

A series of confirmation hearings for president-elect Donald Trump’s controversial cabinet nominees began in the Senate this week, with Democrats eager to grill candidates. How smooth is the process likely to be and who is vulnerable? Gideon Rachman puts the question to Courtney Weaver, the FT’s White House correspondent, and Barney Jopson, the US policy correspondent in Washington.

By Gideon Rachman

James Jesus Angleton, who ran counter-intelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1954 until 1975, once described his world as a “wilderness of mirrors”. The heads of America’s intelligence agencies must have felt a similar sense of surreal disorientation, when they briefed Donald Trump last week. Read more

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Latin America, like the rest of the world only with greater geographical intimacy, is bracing itself for the presidency of Donald Trump. Read more

Turkey battles political turmoil and terrorists

The new year began with a terrorist attack on a nightclub in Istanbul which left 39 dead – the latest blow to hit a country still reeling from the aftermath of a failed coup last year and the political purges that followed. Gideon Rachman discusses Turkey’s prospects with Daniel Dombey and Mehul Srivastava

By Gideon Rachman

America is used to setting global trends. But long before Donald Trump vowed to “Make America Great Again”, China, Russia and Turkey had already established the fashion for nostalgic nationalism.

How will the events of 2016 play out in the coming year?

Daniel Dombey asks Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs columnist, and Fred Studemann, features editor, how the big events of 2016 – Brexit, the US election, and Syria – will play out on the world stage in the coming year.

By Gideon Rachman

So which is it to be: “hard” or “soft” Brexit? Maybe neither. There is a third possibility that is little discussed but increasingly likely: “train-crash Brexit”. In this version of events, the UK and the EU fail to agree a negotiated divorce. Instead, Britain simply crashes out of the EU — with chaotic consequences for trade and diplomatic relations.