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The Silk World Order

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Get ready for ground shattering geopolitical changes. At the crossroads of Asia and Europe, it has been decided that the Russian city of Ufa will be the point of convergence for all the initiatives and projects of the Silk World Order of trade and integration that China and Russia are spearheading.

Ufa, which is the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan, is being used to simultaneously host an extraordinary summit for both the BRICS—which has increasing become an alternative forum to that of the G7—and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) respectively from July 8 to 9 and from July 9 to 10, 2015.

The Coming Together of Eurasia and Beyond

The joint BRICS and SCO summit in Ufa has been organized by Moscow as the simultaneous holder of both the rotating chairmanships of the BRICS and the SCO. It is no coincidence, however, that the Seventh BRICS and Fifteenth SCO summits have been amalgamated as one large international summit. The Kremlin has used the opportunity to bring Russia’s partners together. This is part of the integration process of the Silk World Order. There will be joint BRICS and SCO sessions and many important exchanges and discussions about a new archetype for the world.

One informal session at Ufa will not only include all the members of the BRICS and the SCO, but will also include all the members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), according to information disclosed by Russian President Putin’s aide Yury Ushakov to the Russia media days before the summit in Ufa. Aside from Brazil and South Africa, since all the members of the BRICS and the SCO are located in Eurasia, the Kremlin saw it as pertinent that the EEU be involved in some type of discussion about the development of the Eurasian space. In essence this means that Armenia will be attending the joint BRICS and SCO summit in Bashkortostan, since all the other members of the Eurasian Economic Space are either full SCO members or, in the case of Belarus, an SCO dialogue partner. According to the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin, which asserts that the BRICS-SCO-EEU talks are «a sign that Russia is aiming for political block-building,» the Republic of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will also take part in informal meeting of the BRICS, SCO, and EEU. [1]

The Eurasian and global convergences in Ufa are clear. Using the links that already exist between the two, China’s New Silk Road and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union will begin a roadmap to fuse together in Bashkortostan as the pivotal axis of rotation in the Eurasian space. This is a continuation of the high-level discussions that were announced by both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin on May 8 on the Xi Jinping’s arrival to Moscow, ahead of the Victory Day celebrations on May 9, 2015.

After failed attempts at different venues, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rohani will finally meet in Ufa. India and Iran are rekindling their strategic bonds that had been neglected by the government of Modi’s predecessor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The use of the Iranian port Chabahar by India for gaining access to Russia and Central Asia through the North-South Corridor will definitely be discussed by Indian and Iranian officials at Ufa.

The Coming Silk World Order Being Unveiled in Ufa

While the New Silk Road and the EEC come together in Ufa, the BRICS will put together a development map while the SCO will outline its expansion plans for new full members. The applications of India, Iran, and Pakistan for full membership will be addressed. Moreover, Egypt and several other countries have applied to join the SCO in come context.

Ufa is being used to stamp out a roadmap for the «Eurasian Century» and a Silk World Order that goes beyond Eurasia, which includes everything from a transcontinental mega railroad network connecting the Iberian Peninsula to the South China Sea and to what has been dubbed as the «modern city of the Eurasian continent» in Belarus.

The US is clearly worried about the Silk World Order that is emerging. It has begun to pull out all the stops, from courting Brazil on the eve of the summit in Ufa to calls for the European Union to not join China’s banking project. The Pentagon’s 2015 Military Strategy that addresses the possibility of confrontation with an updated «Axis of Evil» composed of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea is catered to Washington’s proclivity to confront the countries that are challenging a US-dominated international order.

While Washington and NATO are making a general call to arms, the Chinese are busy building trade infrastructure and transport networks. In Belarus, the Chinese are building the first «modern city of the Eurasian continent» in the forests next to the Minsk National Airport as part of what Bloomberg calls «a manufacturing springboard between the European Union and Russia.» [2] Upon completion, the new export-oriented city in Belarus, which is being built on the route of the European highway that links Berlin, Warsaw, Minsk, and Moscow, will be the largest manufacturing and industrial park in Europe.

The US Dollar and Bretton Woods are Finished

The Silk World Order that is being shaped in Ufa will see the existing Bretton Woods financial architecture of the world unraveled and replaced by one that is no longer dominated by the trilateral grouping of the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. The monopoly of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which has benefited Washington, is at its end. The US dollar as a currency in bilateral and multilateral trade is being scraped by the BRICS, SCO, and EEU— Washington’s flooding of oil markets was partially aimed at derailing this by forcing renewed dependence on the US dollar for energy trade.

The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), the first institution of the BRICS, is being launched by Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa. It is joined by the SCO Development Bank and by the recently launched Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in the assault on Bretton Woods.

Gone are the days of unchallenged US domination. The architecture of the post-Second World War or post-1945 global order is now in its death bed and finished. With or without Washington, a Silk World is emerging and its coming is being trumpeted from Ufa as the SCO strengthens and the BRICS institutionalizes itself as the cornerstone of a new multi-polar world order.

NOTES

[1] Gabriel Domínguez, «What to expect from the SCO, BRICS summits in Russia,» Deutsche Welle, July 6, 2015.

[2] Aliaksandr Kudrytski, «China Builds EU Beachhead With $5 Billion City in Belarus,» Bloomberg, May 26, 2013.

Under the original title: The US Dollar and Bretton Woods are Finished: The BRICS/SCO Summits in Ufa Mark the Start of a “Silk World Order”, this article was first published by the Strategic Culture Foundation on July 10, 2015.

Economy

Former African Envoys advocate for more economic engagements with Russia

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Former Ambassadors have strongly urged African leaders and business entrepreneurs to prioritize the most sustainable development needs as the best approach to seeking Russian investors in fixing their economies in Africa when they converge this October for the first Russia-African summit planned in Russia’s southern coastal city of Sochi.

In separate interviews, they believed what was abundantly clear how to stimulate African governments into exploring investment opportunities in Russia and Russian investors into Africa within some framework of mutual-cooperation.

Former South African Ambassador, (H.E.) Mandisi Mpahlwa, said that Sub-Saharan Africa has understandably been low on post-Soviet Russia’s list of priorities, given that Russia is not as dependent on Africa’s natural resources as most other major economies. It is important to point out that Soviet and African relations, anchored as they were on the fight to push back the frontiers of colonialism, did not necessarily translate into trade, investment and economic ties, which would have continued seamlessly with post-Soviet Russia.

“Of course, Russia’s objective of taking the bilateral relationship with Africa to the next level cannot be realized without close partnership with the private sector. Africa and Russia are close politically, but they are also geographically distant and the people-to-people ties are still far under-developed. This translates into a low level of knowledge on both sides of what the other has to offer. There is perhaps also a measure of fear of the unknown or the unfamiliar in both countries,” according to Mpahlawa.

Former Ethiopian Ambassador, Professor (Dr) Teketel Forssido, said that one of the biggest problems has been keen competition from the United States, Europe, China and India as more developed countries with more advanced technological and development oriented solutions, and have become, for the past decades, ” investment patrons” in African countries. These are what Africa need, – foreign policy directed towards the development needs of Africa.

Former Nigerian Ambassador, Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, told me that Africa’s drive for sustainable democratic governance backed by an enhanced economically viable environment is of paramount importance. Many African leaders are emphasizing the quest to eradicate poverty and give people a sustainable environment for budding democracy.

“It is Africa’s hope that foreign authorities will back us in this direction. It is important to remind foreign investors that investment opportunities for developing large and medium scale enterprises are abound in Africa. The importance of the informal sector in generating employment and promoting self-reliance through higher productivity. We implore Russian investors to take advantage of these new potentials,” Air Commodore Dan Suleiman stressed in his discussion.

Undoubtedly, the Russian government stance on supporting the policy of Africa to employ plausible solutions to resolve their infinite problems should be extolled assertively, wrote former Tanzanian Ambassador, Dr Jaka Mgwabi Mwambi.

He said, for instance, “Tanzania is currently on the verge of a bitter wrangle with iniquitous restraints, in order to redress all government systems, for the bright future of its wrath citizens. Thanks, it is discernible that the country is proactively moving steadfastly in a middle-income economy.”

Former Kenyan Ambassador to the Russian Federation, H.E. (Dr) Paul Kibiwott Kurgat explained in a recent interview discussion that any platform created for African leaders has to address thoroughly development-oriented questions, Kenya’s diplomacy has mostly focused on strengthening economic cooperation with foreign countries.

“Looking at the global development, Kenya would always like to build on this long history of strong and comprehensive engagement, first and for most, through developing closer ties with Russia in trade, investment and economic cooperation. So, my advice is that African leaders have to think objectively, first about effective ways how to improve the economy,” he said.

The Government of Kenya’s priority sectors range from infrastructure and energy development, industrialization and agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and among others. The development opens a myriad of investment opportunities to all potential foreign investors across the globe including Russia, Paul Kurgat added in his emailed comments from Nairobi, Kenya.

Former Mozambican Ambassador to Russia, Dr. Bernardo Marcelino Cherinda, emphasized that the changes in Russia have provided a greater impetus for forging new diversified relations, especially in the economic sectors, in Africa.

By this measure, African leaders have to relentlessly work towards a more effective cooperation and use political dialogue to remove obstacles that might hinder smooth progress and development. Whether they like it or not, African leaders have to make rational decisions to align their efforts and policies with this key goal of developing or building their economies, according to him.

Both Russia and Africa have to facilitate participation in the private sectors, to get also involved in medium-sized economic partnership, joint ventures, agro-processing industries, health and education. African leaders do not have to, in the least, doubt the enormous potentials that exist for these, according to the former envoy.

“And, I think it’s equally important Russia and Africa focus seriously on cultural aspects in their activities in order to bridge the widening information gap between the two countries. Russia has made the mark and it’s respected for its indelible historical achievements, literature and for the human values. The use of soft power as an instrument for new image-making initiatives has to be intensified,” Cherinda concluded.

Stergomena Lawrence Tax, Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), assertively stressed in discussion with Russian authorities that strengthening ties in a broad range of economic fields would show that SADC truly remains as one of Russia’s key partners in Africa. SADC is an inter-governmental organization with its primary goal of deepening socio-economic cooperation and integration in the southern region.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to lead the bloc of 54 states, had discussed several times about Russian companies or industries participation in major infrastructure projects on the continent. Currently, Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat has also held discussion on Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution and has made efforts at enlisting Russia’s effective support for the Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU).

For the past one and half decades (since his appointment in 2004), Foreign Minister Lavrov has held in-depth discussions on the current situation in Africa and always pointed to the possibility of continuing to promote effective bilateral cooperation in many spheres and to work together towards using fully the existing potentials. He always reminds that Moscow firmly supports the principle “African solutions to African problems” within a framework of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) formulated by the African countries.

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Economy

Business disorder between Europe and U.S.

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The European Union remains cautious in the economic battle with the White House. U.S. President Donald Trump continues to pursue his protectionist policies in international trade system. This has led to raising concerns and serious discontent among the United States’ European partners.

Disputes between the United States and other countries around the world are continuing on trade and economic issues. The fact is that U.S. President Donald Trump intends to exacerbate tensions until the presidential elections of 2020. Many international experts and analysts believe that a major part of the economic approach to the world of Trump has an electoral and political goal.

Many international analysts now talk about the conflicts between the United States and Europe over imposing sweeping steel and aluminum tariffs as a transatlantic “trade war”.

Conflicts that may extend in the near future and affect the widespread relations between Washington and Europe.

On the other hand, the authorities of Germany, Britain and France have not taken a proper approach to the policies of the President of the United States.Though politicians such as Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Theresa May seek to manage the situation and prevent the exacerbation of tensions with Washington, but people, business owners and European opposition parties are so angry at Trump and the U.S. government that the European troika’s authorities aren’t capable to control or even hide it.

One of the most important reasons for the continuation of Trump’s economic policies in the world is the passivity of European leaders against the White House. Under such circumstances, Europe has threatened to retaliate against the U.S. if Trump imposes steel and aluminum tariffs on European exports.

After Trump made his first announcement on the tariffs, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker threatened to put tariffs on American goods in response to Trump’s decision. That could decrease demand for those products inside EU borders and consequently lead to U.S. workers losing their jobs. But practically, European countries did not do anything about this.

Although some European citizens thought that the Chancellor of Germany would have a more determined approach than other European politicians, this was also a mistake!The German Chancellor stated that European Union member states must give the EU trade commissioner a clear mandate for negotiations with the United States over a long-term exemption from U.S. metal tariffs. Markel added: “Of course, we think it’s important that there are exemptions not only for a limited period of time … So far, we have had a very united stance, namely that we view these tariff demands as unjustified and that we want a long-term exemption.”

The fact is that Merkel’s implicit threat, which she didn’t address directly and explicitly because of her conservative policy towards the United States, is the same as the “European countermeasures” against the United States.

For months now, there have been months of anti-European measures taken by the White House and customs duties on European aluminum and steel. However, European countries have preferred to keep Silent instead of confronting Washington!
Indeed, the prolonged U.S.-EU talks on steel and aluminum tariffs is going to increase the dissatisfaction and anger among the European public opinion. It will also affect the performance of American companies in Europe.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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Economy

Citizen Capitalism: How a Universal Fund can provide Influence and Income to all

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In the face of growing wealth inequality worldwide, more and more people are discussing alternatives to the current laissez-faire capitalism status quo.  Tamara Belinfanti, Sergio Gramitto and the late Lynn Stout offer up their own solution in Citizen Capitalism: How a universal fund can provide influence and income to all.

Our authors have devised up a concept they call the Universal Fund.  It’s like a sovereign wealth fund, but is privately created and funded via private ordering. That means that the Universal Fund is to be created from donations of stocks by companies and philanthropists.  The government would hence be uninvolved; the Universal Fund is not a socialist venture.  Rather, it is in part modeled on the structure of NGOs like the Sierra Club and the Red Cross. The Fund would provide an annual dividend to every citizen, with no maximum income cap.  Though it may seem absurd to send welfare payments to the wealthy, it’s politically savvy framing.  A free public college bill was passed in ultraconservative Tennessee thanks to having no maximum income cap; conservative detractors weren’t able to use the “class warfare” and “welfare queen” arguments. It should be noted that charitable tax deductions, estate tax reductions and lowered tax brackets would act as a de facto government incentive for the wealthy to donate to the Universal Fund.

The goals of the Universal Fund would be to decrease wealth inequality, encourage long-term investment and increase civic engagement in corporate culture.  On the last point, the authors remind us that, “The top 10% [of wealthiest Americans] hold more than 90% of all shares.”  Even in regards to the other 10% of shares owned, most of them are passively owned.  Most small-time investors don’t have time to vote in the annual general meetings of every company in which they are invested in.  Thus, boardroom votes are dominated by two shareholder proxy advisory firms and individual investors who own a substantial percentage of shares, as well as fund portfolio & hedge fund managers.

These Wall Street elites naturally tend to vote based upon their elitist interests.  Thus, they usually make decisions that are insane in terms of employee welfare, long-term corporate growth, executive pay and the environment. For example, `the authors remind us of the recent case of Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund manager who acquired Turing Pharmaceuticals and then raised AIDS medication prices from $13.50 to $750. This is the embodiment of the Reagan-era Golden Rule of maximizing shareholder value.  Not only is this Gordon Gekko truism objectively crazy, it’s actually legally unfounded.  Contrary to what you hear on CNBC or Fox Business, there’s no legal requirement that companies only focus on maximizing shareholder value.  The book relates the following quote from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito comments in the recent case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:“Modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so.”

CITIZEN CAPITALISM points to the ongoing successes of the sovereign wealth funds of Norway and Alaska, an ultraliberal and an ultraconservative society, respectively.  The Alaskan fund generally provides each citizen with a dividend payment of a few thousand dollars each year, via the state’s oil revenues.  The Government Pension Fund Norway is a more pertinent example, since it’s funded through a $1T stock portfolio.  Norway is not only able to fund its citizens’ pensions through the Fund, but also exert a moral influence on the market.  The Fund boycotts various egregious companies, like cigarette manufacturers, and will sell its shares in a company that gets exposed for abusive practices, like say employing child labor.  Our authors likewise want the Universal Fund to use a carrot-and-stick approach in regards to corporate ethics.

The thesis of CITIZEN CAPITALISM is, as the title suggests, rooted in optimism for capitalism.  Though they write about the success of socialist program in Alaska specifically, a conservative state in the US, the authors are convinced that a sovereign wealth fund bill could never be passed in Congress.  Recent polls and election results, however, show that Americans are starting to overwhelmingly favor ambitious government-program proposals like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.  As I wrote before, the Universal Fund would mostly be feasible due to tax incentives; these government incentives would likely need to be greatly expanded in order to encourage enough stock donations to build the Fund to a substantial size.  Even America’s greatest philanthropists still stockpile billions of dollars in their offshore bank accounts.  Thus, one shouldn’t expect the Universal Fund or other private UBI schemes to become a replacement for state management of wealth inequality through programs like public school funding and marginal taxation.  Nonetheless, CITIZEN CAPITALISM is a stimulating little primer for rethinking the relationship between Wall St and Main St, managing the looming crises of a rapidly aging workforce and automation, plus the balancing of private and public sectors in regards to solving societal problems.

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