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Showing posts from May, 2021

Twenty Years Later

America has decided to withdraw from the conflict in Afghanistan; during the past twenty years, there have been an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 casualties among opponent militias and the Afghan population, as well as about 5,000 Western casualties among the US mission, the NATO mission and private military contracting forces. An intervention that began in 2001 as a response to the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11 th has, over two decades, turned into a war without end, in which the United States has seen its credibility as a world power and guarantor of global order put to the test. This is precisely why the decision to withdraw is controversial, in Washington and in other capitals. It has the air of a surrender in the face of domestic opinion marked by war-weariness; it is not known whether the conflict will really end; it is not known who will fill the void left by the United States and NATO, and how; the knock-on effects that the Afghan shock will hav

Indo-African Opposition at the WTO

Since March 1 st , the Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been the new director general of the World Trade Organization. Like a coach hired by a team languishing at the bottom of its league — writes Larry Elliott of The Guardian — Okonjo finds herself in the happy position of taking over at the WTO when the only way is up , This historic international institution is unlikely to experience extinction or irrelevance. However, the appointment of Okonjo does not in itself remedy WTO’s deep troubles. An alternative in plurilateralism The negotiating function of the WTO has been lacking for twenty years now. The latest ambitious goal of liberalising trade in goods and services, announced in Doha in November 2001, became bogged down by the impossibility of a general compromise between old powers and large emerging economies. In 2015 Michael Froman, President Barack Obama’s Trade Representative (USTR), officially called for the abandonment of the Doha Round. Froman’s alternative p

‘Two Hands’ and ‘Two Roads’

From the series News from the Silk Road The international tensions which China will face on the seas in the next fifteen years could find a buffer in the expansion of China’s influence on land in Central, Southern and Western Asia. Wang Jisi is the dean of the School of International Studies at the University of Beijing and a major figure of the American party in China. His unexpected foray into ‘geopolitics’ has reignited the old clash between different American currents — a phenomenon we analysed more than twenty years ago. At the time, Robert Manning, the author of The Asian Energy Factor and adviser to the State Department in 1991, viewed Asia’s growing dependence on the Persian Gulf for its energy requirements in the light of geoeconomics and geostrategy and foresaw a possible convergence between the USA and China. From a geoeconomic standpoint, both trade and the funding and development of the infrastructure necessary for Asia’s energy needs were more important than terri

Biden Plan and Global Minimum Tax

Recovery from the pandemic crisis — writes the IMF in April’s World Economic Outlook — is increasingly visible due to three factors: first, hundreds of millions of people are being vaccinated; second, companies and employees have somewhat adapted to the healthcare disaster; and finally governments especially the American have pledged massive government — extra fiscal support. Governmental fiscal interventions have reached $16,000 billion worldwide, have averted collapse of the economy that would have been three times worse, blocking the 2020 recession at a 3.3% drop, and have pushed the recovery rate to 6% in 2021. The overall recovery will be the outcome of a series of divergent recoveries . Only the United States, with a 6.4% growth rate, will exceed the GDP level predicted before the pandemic. The disparity regards healthcare first of all. High-income countries, representing 16% of global population, have already bought up half of the vaccine doses. The real estate, financial and

India’s Weaknesses in the Global Spotlight

Farmers’ protests around New Delhi have been going on for four months now. A controversial intervention by the Supreme Court has suspended the implementation of the new agticultural laws, but has raised questions about the dynamics between the judiciary and the executive, and has failed to unblock the negotiations between government and peasant organisations. The assault by Sikh farmers on the Red Fort during the Republic Day parade as India was displaying its military might to the outside world — the Chinese Global Times maliciously noted — paradoxically widened the protest in the huge state of Uttar Pradesh. The Modi government has been trying to revive India’s image with the 2021 Union Budget: it announced one hundred privatisations and approved the increase to 75% of the limit on direct foreign investment in insurance companies. For The Indian Express ( IEX ) this is a sign of the commitment to push ahead with reforms despite the backlash from rural India. Also for The Economi

Bolsonaro Squeezed between Pandemic, Lula Card and Armed Forces

This article is taken from Intervenção Comunista — the journal of our Brazilian comrades We wrote in May last year that the ‘tropical Trump’ causes a perfect storm . This first quarter of the year seems to demonstrate this clearly: GDP decline (-4.1%) and increased unemployment (14.2%); an end to emergency aid and a delay in the resumption of a new, much leaner aid plan; a record number of deaths and Covid infections. With 2.7% of the world’s population, the country accounts for about 12% of Covid-19 deaths. In March alone, Brazil recorded an increase of about 33% in its daily deaths. The pandemic crisis, coupled with historical imbalances, is shaking up the dysfunctional government of Jair Bolsonaro, who has just appointed his fourth health minister in a year. Increased dependence on the Centrão The second half of Bolsonaro’s term began — for their politics — with the election of Arthur Lira (Progressive Party-Alagoas) as president of the Chamber of Deputies, and Rodrigo Pac

British Nostalgia

From the series European News In his book Britain Alone , the Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens argues that David Cameron’s decision to hold the Brexit referendum in 2016 was self-serving […] The prime minister wanted to snuff out a Tory rebellion and to give himself a quieter life in 10 Downing Street . For short term tactical reasons, Cameron gambled on the strategic issue of Britain’s link to Europe. As for Boris Johnson, backing Brexit had been about personal ambition: establishing his claim to the leadership . In Stephens’ reconstruction of events, Brexit was an unwanted outcome for the leaders of the Leave campaign: When Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, […] appeared before the cameras on the morning of 24 June, they looked shell-shocked rather than triumphant. […] Winning was not part of the plan. However, once Brexit had been set in motion, Johnson pursued it with wild abandon and made it the cornerstone of his bid for No. 10. According to Stephens, there was no und

Industrial Apparatuses in Confrontation

From the series The struggle against coronavirus According to the British analyst firm Airfinity, some 9.5 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be produced worldwide in 2021. This number is double the annual production of all types of vaccines in the pre-pandemic era (5 billion, excluding oral polio, travellers’ and military vaccines), and can be compared with the requirement of 11.5 billion to immunise two-thirds of the world’s population [Airfinity, March 8th]. The development of vaccines has been exceptionally rapid, but manufacturing them on a large scale has encountered difficulties and delays. In 2020, only 4% of the expected doses were in fact produced [ibidem]. Production is concentrated in a limited number of countries, largely interdependent due to supply chains that cross state borders and continents. The World Bank identifies, among the producing countries, a Covid-19 vaccine producers club of 13 countries that manufacture both the active ingredient and its component

Historical Constants and Strategic Surprise

The Strategic Surprise of the Agreement between Beijing and Tehran and the Suggestion of a Six-Power Concert The agreement between Beijing and Tehran falls under the definition of strategic surprise , i.e., events that entirely appertain to the political realm and mark a change or an about-turn in the balance among the powers. New alliances, the breakdown of alliances, the overturning of coalitions, diplomatic openings or unexpected military sorties: these are the regular novelties of international politics that Arrigo Cervetto wrote about. However, if the agreement was an unforeseeable event in itself, the long-term objective economic and political trends. that have determined it and made it possible are entirely investigable. The invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR at the end of December 1979 was interpreted by the United States as a potential threat to the oil routes of the Persian Gulf, and it was a contemporary revival of the Great Game , which had set the British Empire agai