Wednesday, October 12, 2011

World (econ/trade) Cup news and dynamics!

""We are in trade war. But today we’re fighting back,” said Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown" after the US Senate passed a "China currency manipulation" bill (See "Senate passes China currency manipulation bill" in The Raw Story, October 11, 2011).

1) "War" is a heavy/loaded word, that I would not use, but Senator Brown is right in that globalisation has turned into a fierce economic/trade World Cup instead of a cooperation "game" of nations. So what was billed as a world championship primarily between multinational corporations (and "local"/national champions (companies)) has gained a second level, the economic competition (World Cup) between countries. With exports (goods and increasingly services), investment, etc as its tools (instead of eg a ball, see football). Countries are ranked by various sources (including the WEF's Global Competitiveness Report, the rating agencies, etc). Based on GNP/GDP, trade or CA balances, etc. The genre of the game is mostly competitive, and mostly fierce, not cooperative.

After the 2008 US subprime driven crisis, some spoke of "over-dependency on exports". Others spoke of "over-dependency on the financial industry" (eg of the UK/London, by a now former German Minister). An equivalent to the US over-dependency on oil that even GW Bush Jr. spoke of?

In more recent months, the US has accused Germany of exporting too much and consuming tooo little! We are also reminded that many economists especially of past times have argued that trade is supposed to be in near balance and that excessive trade surpluses are as damaging to the world economic systemics as trade deficits are.

Some have even argued that "good" domestic consumers are a precious asset for a country (eg the US, consumption is 2/3 of the economy). Of course it helps when the market is big enough (eg the US 300 million one) and realy internal and single (unlike the EU not that single after all Single Market and the Eurozone (330 million ie larger than the US in theory, but not as internal as the US in practice). See also my August 29, 2011 post: "Show me your consumers and then I will show you mine!"

2) Back to the bill that just passed in the US Senate, it is not active yet anyway. Merely passed in Senate. Not the GOP majority House of Reps, at least not yet. Normally pro-free trade USA (Bush even tried to create a Free Trade Area for the whole Americas (North, Central and South in Mar del Plata in mid-2000s) but did not inspire most other Americas countries, that are nevertheless into things like Mercosur and the evolving UNASUR, while NAFTA is not too big a success according to all 3 members, and the Democrats in the House and Senate had managed to stall the adoption of bilateral agreements that Bush had concluded) But with 2012 so close, will GOP stand on its pro "free trade" principles or take into account the electoral climate too? By the way, as far as I know, Obama wa never given "fast track" powers like the ones the Democrats led House and Senate had given Bush to negotiate the now shifted towards a "lite" version WTO Doha Round of trade talks.

And while WTO exists with its 150+ members, internationa trade is still not free (only more free than it was 20 or 30 years ago) and according to many studies that there too many "hidden"/covert barriers/protectionist defenses employed by countries (eg many G20 ones) that otherwise partake in the G20 and others' public rhetoric pro-free trade!

4) I have been pondering (and blogging) as per how long before USA and/or EU realise that for them WTO membership has more restrictions than opportunities (& that they can be better served via bilateral agreements between countries, not even free trade areas)?

5) I am not even sure how compatible the US "China currency manipulation" bill is with WTO rules! Could US measures against China activated via this bill lead to China complaint to the WTO that currency manipulation is not covered by WTO rules (and thus not forbidden) and that thus the US measures justify WTO approved counter-measures by China? Not an expert, but wondering.

6) Of course, nowadays, there are only 2 economic super-powers in the world today: China and USA. Russia could be added as a +1 (in a G2+1 instead of G7+1 configuration). The U is not an world economic superpower, unless it unites politically. And the UK, France and Italy have long lost real "G" status (eg G7).

What about Germany, the ex-No1 exporter in the world (now it is China)? Well, Germany is economic/trade champion only in a EU league, not the world league, since most of its exports stay in the EU! Plus Germany (unlike USA, China, and potentially India and Russia) has too small of an internal market to "survive" bumps. That is why it needs EU/Euro.

7) Daring to be different. Not sure how Russia's plans to be a world power via oil and natura gas are working out (calls for a return to the USSR's military superpower status would suggest that the oil and natural gas strategies are not working too well), but Russia is clever in that it puts extra criteria for foreign state (vs private) investments in Russia. And no WTO membership (eve if it is aid to be vetoed by Georgia). Why? Because while USA and Germany had to offer people rebates as a stimulus for their car industries but to be consistent with WTO rules they had to make the rebates available to buyers of made in WTO inports too, Russia, not being a member of WTO merely hiked the tarrifs of car imports!

To be continued in a market near you and around the world!

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