Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Independence" and "sovereignty" in 2009 terms

The national independence days for the US and France are approaching (July 4 and July 14). IMO that is a good opportunity to think about factors what constitute "independence" and (another popular term again these days) "sovereignty" in 2009 rather than 1509 or 1809 terms.

The global oil and staple foods "shocks" of last year did, IMO, offer some warnings as to the over-reliance of countries and economies on global trade. IMO they did provide some food for thought re the ability of a country or economy/society to operate in cases, even rare, when "global free trade" fails,, for any of many potential reasons.

See eg the ability of the UK economy to operate when the drivers of barges carrying oil to the UK went on strike even for a few days last year (self reliance on energy sources) or the dependence of the EU on natural gas from a single third country.

Much of the British public and media seem to be concerned over the issue of loss of sovereignty to "Brussels" (ie the EU) and that was reflected, inter alia, in the results of the recent European Parliament elections. Yet relatively little concern seem to exist in the UK over the influence of foreign "sovereign wealth funds" on the UK's sovereignty or independence. On the other hand, countries such as Russia and Germany have in recent months either established (Russia) or plan to establish (Germany) certain limits or conditions or approval processes re foreigh investment, especially investment, direct or via the stockmarket, made by funds that are controlled by foreign governments (SWFs).

Thus are laws drafted and passed by reps of the 27 member states of the EU undermining the independence or sovereignty of the UK or other member states more or less than:

a) SWF investments
b) over-reliance on exports (see what is happening to the economies of export relying countries such as Germany, China, Taiwan, Thailand, etc) these days?
c) over-reliance on imports or foreign trade (export and import)?
d) having reserves that are denoted in a foreign sovereign currency?
e) other

On the other hand, can trade really take place even within the existing WTO rules that makes it possible for small companies to actually trade internationally when such a company has to comply with the national legislation of many different countries (or even regions thereof, eg see Canada or states (see USA or Germany)?

IMO, we, policy analysts and makers, media, the citizens' society, philosophers and other thinkers, activists of many kinds, etc, need to engage in a major thinking exercise and public discussion on what constitutes real independence and real sovereignty in 2009 terms and what does not. IMO the current definitions used or implied by many are inconsistent or not that relevant to the real sources and real threats of these concepts and values in our era.

The exercise should include, IMO, the issue of "national champions" and "backbones to national economies" (eg financial services in the UK, auto manufacturing in Germany and the US, etc etc).

That is of course a rather difficult and emotionally loaded topic but when the going gets as tough as it is today (and the fuzz as well), there is IMO a need for these "things" to be discussed and somewhat clarified. Because IMO what the modern citizen of most at least OECD (if not WTO) countries needs these days of uber-uncertainties is more clarity, not less (aka more political or activist "double talk", eg how can a "buy US" clause in the US stimulus package be consistent with the US's WTO (and NAFTA) "rules"?).

In days and times of high uncertainty, due to many causes, IMO, people need policy, rules and systemics that reduce rather than increase "fuzz".

Just my philosophical opinion

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BRs
Nick

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