The past two weeks saw the emergence of a new coronavirus variant – designated “Omicron” – that was first noted by officials in South Africa, who quickly reported it globally. While countries around the world – including the United States of America (US or USA) – restricted travel to and from nations in southern Africa, the actions are largely intended to try and control the spread of Omicron, amid continued Delta variant surges. Despite the travel restrictions, the Omicron variant, however, has been detected already in a half-dozen European countries, including the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, Israel, the USA and other countries. Scientists speculate Omicron could become the dominant variant in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the USA and European Union (EU) found common ground this past week, as the two sides met to discuss trade, the Indo-Pacific, and other matters. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Latvia and Sweden this week, attending the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Foreign Ministerial and meeting with European officials. A major theme to emerge from his meetings in Europe was increased US concern with Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border. Secretary Blinken also met with his Russian counterpart – as did UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss separately – on the margins of other events in Sweden. Transatlantic partners also focused this week on Belarus, imposing a coordinated fifth tranche of sanctions against the Lukashenko regime. Looking ahead, the US Government will host its first-ever Summit for Democracy on 9-10 December.
In this issue, we also cover:
- Notable US, EU, and UK developments;
- A brief UK-EU trade deal update;
- World Trade Organization updates; and
- COVID-19 highlights among the transatlantic partners.