Cobalt, Venezuela, Potash, Iran, and the Week in Review

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Cobalt, Venezuela, Potash, Iran, and the Week in Review

Happy Friday! A reminder to check out our latest podcast with Sune Sorensen by visiting our new podcast page by clicking here. As always, we continue to publish our Latin America-themed geopolitical newsletter three times a week at – check it out if you want more Perch in your life. If you need help managing geopolitics in your business, drop us a line at or reply to this e-mail. ¡Hasta la próxima semana, stay cool!

Heart of Cobalt. “Dozens” of militia fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) eastern provinces surrendered to the DRC government. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi traveled to Katanga province, a key mining area in the DRC, and announced that his government would push to renegotiate mining contracts signed with foreign companies under his predecessor’s government, especially those with China.

What it means: If China is nervous about the DRC’s sudden about-face, it hasn’t shown it. Beijing noted that it is ready to “strengthen strategic partnership based on win-win cooperation” with the DRC. China’s Ambassador to the DRC was a little more direct in his response, urging the Tshisekedi government not to let Africa becomele champ de bataille des puissances” (“a battleground for powers”). Too late for that, we reckon. The DRC was the source of 70 percent of the world’s cobalt production last year. Cobalt is crucial for the production of lithium-ion batteries, so what happens in Kinshasa won’t just stay in Kinshasa — it will affect supply chains, EV companies, and auto manufacturers around the world. 

Venezuela wants U.S. investment. Venezuelan Dictator/President Nicolas Maduro sat down with Bloomberg Television for an 85-minute interview. Maduro offered his usual ideological bombast – but also said Venezuela’s situation “has to change” and that he has been waiting for any positive sign that the U.S. will reconsider its crippling sanctions regime.

What it means: The U.S. State Department quickly threw cold water on the interview, stipulating that Venezuela has to do a lot more to support democracy if it is serious about turning the page in the relationship. Even so, it’s pretty notable that Maduro’s government is going out of its way to try and indicate to Washington that it’s open for business. For more, check out our full coverage at LatamPolitik

Potash problems. The European Union, the UK, and the U.S. approved a new round of sanctions against Belarus. Unlike previous rounds of sanctions, the sanctions target critical industries like Belarusian potash and fertilizer (the EU imported €1.2 billion of Belarusian potash last year). If you’re in the ag space at all…take note. 

What it means: As with cobalt – there is a limited amount of potash and fertilizer available in global markets, and a fairly large chunk comes either from Belarus or Russia. (Other countries with large potash reserves include Canada and China.) Going after potash means that EU, UK, and U.S. actions are lining up with their statements about pushing for real change in Minsk. 

JCPOA 2.0? Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raeisi demanded the U.S. lift all sanctions against Iran before the JCPOA can go back into effect. Notably, however, Raeisi said he would keep Iran’s current negotiating team in place and did not suggest Iran would turn its back on the JCPOA once he assumes office.

What it means: We continue to think a return to the JCPOA is likely, and that any delays will reflect internal competition within Iran to clamor for credit for the deal. That could mean Raeisi playing hardball for a few months – but our assessment remains that Iran and the U.S. will reach an agreement relatively soon, i.e. within a roughly 4-8 month time horizon.

Honorable mention

Trae Young is better at basketball than Jacob thought. He’s sorry. Go Hawks!

Russia said it fired a warning shot at the British destroyer HMS Defender in the Black Sea near Crimea due to UK forces encroaching on Russia’s “territorial inviolability.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called a bill based by the Hungarian government last week that limits LGBTQ+ content in Hungarian schools as “a shame.”

The United States opposed a U.N. General Assembly resolution to condemn the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

U.S. President Joe Biden said that a bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement to support a $579 billion infrastructure bill.

Australia announced that the government was empowering Export Finance Australia to provide equity finance for transactions and investments “that serve Australia’s national interest and priorities.”

The chairman of a new Japanese expert panel advising the government on semiconductors and a former top official at Tokyo Electron warned that Japan needed to come up with at least ¥1 trillion (~$9 billion) to buttress the company’s semiconductor industry.

The People’s Bank of China also changed the way banks calculate deposit rates.

The United States passed a significant expansion of sanctions on China, related to its treatment of ethnic Uighur Muslims, as well as new restrictions for U.S. and foreign companies sourcing goods produced in the region