The trade war between China and the United States roils stock markets, and the World Trade Organization is at risk of extinction because major players ignore its rules. But the fierce controversy surrounding the Global Compact on Migration, a mild and non-binding document which several of the countries gathered in Marrakesh – including about one-third of EU members - refused to sign, shows that migration is even more radioactive than trade. As they face a backlash against globalization, policy-makers are under far greater pressure to contain migration than to stop imports.
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The Entrepreneurship of Migrants was one of the topics under discussion in the UN Global Forum, which just concluded in Marrakesh with the adoption of a Global Compact on Migration.
*The recommendations put forth below have been published, both print and online, in the Financial Times.
The leaders of the G20 will meet on 30 November and 1 December in Buenos Aires for their annual summit. They need to acknowledge that the last two years have been characterized by strong headwinds for the world economy. This time, however, it is not a mixture of poor macroeconomic policies and bad business decisions – as in 2008 when they met in Washington for their first summit – that endangers the well-being of billions of citizens around the globe. This time the threat stems from deliberate political decisions, in particular on trade.
This blog is based on remarks delivered at the Think-Tank Summit in Buenos Aires on 18 September 2018 held under the G-20’s Argentine Presidency.
Africa has an enormous infrastructure gap that impedes its development. The Compact with Africa (CwA) is an international policy initiative sponsored under the German presidency of the G-20 in 2017 designed to bridge that gap. Intended to draw in the private sector in developing Africa’s infrastructure through a combination of Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) and blended finance, the CwA involves the public sector of a dozen African countries have volunteered to join the initiative, and international organizations such as the African Development Bank and various donor agencies. Though the initiative has built up momentum among policy-makers since its launch, the participation of the private sector has been noticeably weak.
Historians often offer different interpretations of the events that have shaped our destiny, yet, with respect to World War 2, the bloodiest conflict in history, they seem to concur on two points. First, that those yearning for peace underestimated the National Socialists’ determination to wage a war of conquest until it was far too late to deter them, and, second, that Nazi Germany failed to anticipate that Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union – each of which it provoked - would eventually combine and exercise overwhelming power to destroy it. These combined errors help account both for the breakout of the war and its subsequent murderous intensity. Fortunately, trade wars do not kill people, but the consequences for the living standards of the world’s citizens could turn out to be disastrous. Moreover, as the great tariff conflicts between the United States, Europe and China escalate, similar errors are being repeated today as happened in the run-up to World War 2.
President Trump’s proclamation that, because of national security concerns, he will apply a 25% tariff on all steel and a 10% tariff on all aluminium imports into the United States – except provisionally and dependent on NAFTA negotiations those from Canada and Mexico – affects, respectively 5.1 billion Euros and 1.1 billion Euros of EU exports. These are not trivial sums. However, the invocation of the national security exception in this case has implications that go far beyond narrow sectoral effects: it represents a challenge to the world trading system as we know it, and is, in fact, the challenge the President of the United States had promised many times during the election campaign and as a private citizen in decades prior.
The best way I can describe my feelings about trade these days is as an unstable anxiety disorder. Following on November 8 2016, the date of the US election, my anxiety level rose markedly as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was buried. Shortly thereafter it touched a maximum when a dangerous idea called the Border Adjustment Tax was gaining traction, and the North-American Free Trade Agreement seemed headed the way of TPP. Then I became a little less prone to panic attacks, as various checks and balances on Presidential action seemed to kick in. Executive Orders now command the preparation of studies of why trade agreements are not working instead of commanding immediate departure from them. That gives me hope.
During his run for President of the United States, Mr. Trump called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), “the worst trade deal ever approved by this country”. His target is Mexico, which runs a $ 50 billion surplus of trade in goods and services with the United States. Trade with Canada, the third NAFTA party, is essentially balanced. However, NAFTA’s provisions cannot be changed without affecting Canada and without Canada’s consent, and the Foreign Ministers of Canada and Mexico have declared that they want the new NAFTA to be negotiated trilaterally, not bilaterally as Mr. Trump prefers