What is Germany’s current role within the EU and in the global economic system? Which game is it playing? These are questions which cannot be answered in an unambiguous and simplistic way, as often happens today.
First and foremost, we shall wonder whether Germany is the cause or the solution of the European political and financial crisis.
Certainly, the current negative economic situation in the EU comes at a time when global financial markets are losing confidence in Greece’s ability to repay its debts.
The contagion of mistrust forces also other peripheral nations, but certainly not Germany, to seek bailouts of their sovereign debt in the framework of the international community, namely the EU itself and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It is the time when – as was the case in the Toronto G20 Summit of June 2010 – the absolute priority of fiscal consolidation, and hence of the squeeze on public spending, is set.
However, if we make an in-depth analysis, we realize that financial deregulation and the lowering of interest rates have been the primary causes of the Eurozone crisis.
It was precisely the new availability of funding from banks – as also happened in the United States – to excessively stimulate consumption and generate a series of financial “bubbles”, especially real estate ones, which apparently increased tax revenues and hence public spending. Those bubbles, however, quickly deflated and burst out, thus creating a structural imbalance which today makes the difference between Germany and the EU “peripheral” countries.
It is also worth recalling that the Euro introduction made the intra-European banking exchanges increase by 40%, with a relative increase in real estate and commodity prices.
Too much credit and at low interest rates “doped” both South European consumers and their governments.
Nevertheless, in the current crisis situation, the EU central countries and Germany, in particular, have maintained a greater competitive margin, mainly resulting from the relatively low wage growth.
Hence, also in the recent crisis, Germany could increase its exports to the EU peripheral countries, while its banks lent money to the EU marginal countries for them to buy German goods and services.
Therefore Germany must be seen both as the cause and the solution of the economic depression of the Euro zone peripheral countries.
However is Germany currently suffering from an invisible crisis, as some analysts note?
Even in this case, the issue is more complex than it may seem.
It is worth noting that Germany is the fourth world economy and the G20 third largest exporter. It depends on its export economy as Saudi Arabia depends on oil sales.
Currently German exports account for 45.7% of the country’s GDP. Therefore Germany is forced to face the imbalances and liquidity crisis of the countries buying German goods and services.
However, are the strategies adopted so far by Germany to support and stabilize its growth through exports still sustainable?
This raises some doubts in my mind.
Furthermore, all the traditional exporting countries, such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, are in crisis.
Hence Germany could press ever more with its exporting model, thus preserving the EU as a free trade area, but fiercely competing with the European peripheral countries, which also live on exports and would see the German economy burn up the land under their feet, as currently already happens in many sectors.
We experienced so also with the 2008 crisis: the recession made the sovereign debt of many EU peripheral countries unmanageable and Germany, as net creditor, has always required public spending cuts and a quick repayment of the loans granted.
However, while Germany holds most of European debt securities, and particularly of the countries under crisis, if the South European economies collapse (and this possibility cannot be still ruled out) Germany will no longer have a sufficiently large market for its exports, because it cannot offset the losses in Europe with the corresponding increase in exports to China, the rest of Asia or the Arab countries – all nations which, at different levels, are recording an economic downturn.
Hence if Germany stimulates the growth of the Euro zone which owes money to it, the debt of the EU peripheral countries will increase. However, if the debt owed to Germany by the countries already in crisis rises, the latter will experience a very severe banking crisis and a possible default on their sovereign debt.
This adds to an unemployment rate which, in various ways, amounts to 20% in Southern Europe – a rate similar to the one recorded during the Great Depression in the United States.
Hence, against this background, the German economy cannot shrink up to making impossible to preserve the German export economy model also in the EU “economic locomotive”.
Furthermore, in this situation, the South European countries in financial crisis could not even replace Germany as to exports.
A productive and financial trap of which it is extremely hard to get out.
Moreover Germany has no interest in changing its development model.
It is the model which has produced all German comparative advantages since the introduction of the single currency.
Today the signs of the German crisis, which Germany will project onto the whole EU, are already evident.
The foreign market share for the “made in Germany” products is falling and the return on investment has declined. Many German companies are lowering prices to preserve their traditional market share.
If Germany shifts from an export economy to a productive system linked to the internal market growth, the German high savings rate, which allowed the companies’ technological upgrading, will no longer be possible.
France, for example, is no longer the first EU market for the goods produced in Germany.
In 2015 German exports to China fell by 4%.
Some German exports to the United States are increasing (19%), but the US market share cannot be a substitute for a long period of time.
Currently also the United States are a low-growth country and the US savings are increasing.
On average, the US economic crisis cycle is approximately seven years – hence we shall expect that, in a year or two, the North American market will tend to shrink again.
Therefore the bubble-boost cycle is now embedded in the US economy.
Incidentally, this should make us rethink – in a new way – about Marx’s theory of the inevitability of capitalist crises.
Furthermore, as already mentioned, the return of capital on investment in Germany is ever lower.
Over the last two years, the large German groups have seen a drop in the profitability of the capital employed from 13% to 3%.
Moreover the prices throughout the Euro zone are declining.
Last January prices decreased by an average 3% and the downward trend of average prices is increasingly evident and stable.
Hence, if Germany were to fall into recession, the German solution will likely be to quickly recover the Southern Euro zone’s debt, even with some discounts, and then fiercely eradicate competition from other EU exporting countries, also with unfair or dangerous business practices.
It is worth recalling that the German exposure to Italian banks amounts to 120 billion euro and our credit institutions have a share of non-performing loans (NPL) exceeding 17%.
In absolute terms, the German exposure to Italian banks alone is worth 3% of its GDP.
Hence how long will the German patience last in a phase of economic crisis?
It is also worth considering that this year the Commerzbank profit has fallen by 52%, while Deutsche Bank has recorded a fall in profit by 58%, with a German banking system which has as many as 41.9 trillion derivatives entered in the budget.
It is worth recalling that if Deutsche Bank collapses, the Euro will follow suit.
Moreover, if Germany “bails out” Deutsche Bank, everybody will note the different treatment reserved for the German credit institutions compared to the Greek banks.
It would be a sort of “anything-goes attitude” inside the Euro and the EU proclamations would turn into all talk and no action, as well as window dressing which serves no purpose.
If the German banks (and not just Deutsche Bank) are bailed out by the government, the German debt/GDP ratio will rise from 71% to 110%.
There would be no more room for preaching on austerity by Germany, which could not but accept the Italian, Spanish, Greek and Portuguese debt “overshooting”.
It is worth noting that Deutsche Bank funds most of German exports – hence, if it collapses, the German economy will soon fall into a severe crisis.
Therefore, the following can be predicted: if Germany falls into recession, the first reaction will probably be to quickly recover credits from the Euro zone and then follow a scorched-earth approach as to exports in the rest of Europe.
On the contrary, if Germany succeeds in “standing fast”, it will have every interest in refinancing the Southern Euro zone for it to buy its goods.
In any case, however, the EU situation is neither good nor stable and, in the future, we shall see to what extent the single currency will hold firm or whether Germany, or even Italy, will try to exit from the Euro in one way or the other.
Brazil India Investment Cooperation and Facilitation Treaty (2020)
During a recent visit to India (24th – 27th January) as a chief guest of the Republic Day celebration, Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro sketched an ambitious plan to revitalisation their faltering economy. This new strategic partnership will expand cooperation in key sectors of the economy such as oil, gas, and mining, while it was setting the target of USD 15 billion in bilateral trade by 2022. While approaching to WTO against India for extending support to her sugarcane farmers, Brazil penned investment cooperation and facilitation treaty. This is Brazil’s 10thand India’s 4thbilateral investment agreement since both nations had adopted their Model Bilateral Investment Treaty. Previously, India has managed to conclude bilateral investment treaties with Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Cambodia after scrapping down all 83 existing bilateral investment treaties. The object and purpose of this short write-upare to critically analyse and compare the new Brazil-India Cooperation and Facilitation Treaty (Brazil-India BIT) with the Model BITs of India and Brazil. It will be discussed who deviates from Model BIT and to what extent to sign the investment agreement. Moreover, the author will evaluate whether both countries have compromised their interest to strike a deal and who wins the deal or to what extent.
The Definition of Investment
Definition of investment is one of the essential elements in any investment agreement as this is the first thing a disputant has to establish before an investment tribunal to avail the protection. Brazil-IndiaBIT under Article 2.4 incorporates the meaning of investment. Here we see that enterprise-based definition is adopted where an enterprise is taken together with all of its assets. Both Brazil and Indian Model BITs have adopted the same enterprise-based definition approach. The BIT definition of investment is coupled with some other characteristic such as the commitment of capital, objective of establishing a lasting interest, expectation of gain or profit, and the risk assumption. In this, the BIT commensurate with Indian Model BIT as Brazil BIT lacks these elements in the definition of investment. A slight difference remains with the Indian Model BIT as the BIT does not require the “significance for the development of the host-state” characteristic in investment. Prof. Ranjan rightly pointed out that the requirement “investment should be significant for the development of the host-state” is a subjective requirement which is very much challenging for the foreign investor to prove the same before an investment tribunal.
Novelty in Expropriation Clause
A novelty of the new Brazil-India BIT is its expropriation clause which completely excludes indirect expropriation from the scope and purview. Article 6 only talks out “Direct expropriation” as the heading of the article proposes. Article 6.3 incorporates a provision which clearly states that the treaty only covers direct expropriation. The direct expropriation takes place in the time of nationalisation or when expropriation is made directly through formal transfer of title or when a downright seizure is made. Thus Brazil-India BIT does not cover indirect expropriation of investment. After a thorough reading of both Model BIT, it is observed that Brazilian Model BIT does not have any provision related to indirect expropriation while Indian Model BIT covers the same under Article 5.3. Thus, this can well be said that this novel idea of excluding indirect expropriation, Brazil wins while India deviated its Model BIT. As this rule allows investors to bring indirect expropriation claims on imperceptible grounds. Brazil has been critical to indirect expropriation for some time. According to the Brazilian approach, this provision allows foreign investors to make abusive claims and shrink regulatory spaces of the host-state, which helps host-state to protect public interest such as public health, environment, public security etc. Since direct expropriation of foreign investment is very much rare in the modern economic affair, it is unexpected that the Indian side departed from its earlier practice. Even recently concluded Indian BIT with Belarus provides rules of indirect expropriation under article 5.3A thorough reading will reveal that not only those BITs provide for protection from both ends but also laid down formulae of determining indirect expropriation which could be a great guide for investment tribunals. Host-states regulatory powers which emanate directly from its sovereignty puts a prodigious test for the investors. The regulatory measures are taken in public interest frequently creates hardships and might upset investment adversely. Although there is a possibility of abusing power under the blanket of indirect expropriation, the entire removal of the system of indirect expropriation is not a welcome step. In the words of professor Ranjan, “leaving indirect expropriation outside the scope of the BIT creates a yawning gap in the protection of foreign investment.”
Prevention and Settlement of Dispute Clause – A New Horizon
Settlement of dispute is a vital portion of any investment agreement. It is observed that Brazil-India BIT used the phrase “dispute prevention and settlement” instead of the word dispute settlement only. Settlement of dispute comes under Part IV Institutional Governance, Dispute Prevention and Settlement. This highlights that both countries emphasise on the prevention of disputes resorting to the principle “prevention is better than cure”. Ostensible novelty is established in this BIT as Brazil has been very critical to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement System (ISDS) which gives an investor a right to approach an investment tribunal directly against a State. There is no provision of ISDS in this new Brazil-India BIT. Article 13 calls for the creation of the Joint Committee for the administration of this Treaty comprising of government representatives of both parties. This Joint Committee shall oversee the implementation and execution of the treaty, coordinate and facilitate, and resolve the dispute amicably between the parties. In pursuant to Article 14 Each party has to establish National Focal Point or Ombudsman who will be responsible for following recommendations of Joint Committee and consult with other party’s Ombudsman. Concisely, Ombudsman shall work closely with the other party’s Ombudsman, Joint Committee, and relevant government authorities at the state and local level to address differences and helping in preventing disputes. A unique dispute prevention mechanism is provided under Article 18. Under this article, if a party considers that a specific measure adopted by the other party constitutes a breach of this treaty, the party may initiate dispute prevention procedure within the Joint Committee. If the Joint Committee fails to resolve the dispute within a specified time of two months, the party may submit the dispute to the arbitration in according to article 19. Article 19 envisages State to State Dispute Settlement (SSDS) mechanism. This article says when dispute prevention mechanism fails to address and resolve the differences between parties, either party may refer the dispute to arbitration tribunal under this article. Article 19.2 says in explicit language that the purpose of the arbitration is to decide on the interpretation of the treaty or the observance of the terms of the treaty by a party. Furthermore, it spells out that the tribunal does not have any power to award compensation. Indian Model BIT provides both ISDS and SSDS mechanisms while Brazilian Model BIT excludes ISDS procedure, instead they devise SSDS system of dispute settlement. Thus, it is more than clear that India compromised its stand and agreed to adopt the SSDS system put forward by Brazil. However, in the absence of ISDS, the foreign investor has to depend entirely upon the home-state. If home-state does not wish to protect the interest of the investor, the investor will have no remedy available to the foreign investor under general international law.
Non Discrimination Clause
Non-discriminatory clauses in BIT protects investors from losses which may incur due to war or other armed conflicts, civil strife, national emergency etc. If any investment is adversely affected due to any above-stated reasons the state has to compensate the investor. The BIT stipulates the ways of compensation. Typically, it includes restitution, indemnification, and other forms of compensations. Article 7 of the Brazil-India BIT incorporates such rule. It says, if investment suffers losses in the territory of other party due to war or other armed conflicts, revolution, state of emergency, civil strife or any other similar events, shall enjoy restitution, indemnification, or other forms of compensations. Moreover, the clause attached with MFN clause. So, the adversely affected investor has the option to avail the most favourable treatment under the MFN clause, which is awarded to a third-party than the treatment the host-state accords to its own investors. Both Model BITs have featured this non-discrimination clause. The Indian Model BIT only includes National Treatment clause not MFN clause whereas Brazilian Model BIT incorporates MFN clause. Thus, once again, India compromised its stand to Brazil and agreed to embrace the MFN clause to article 7 of Brazil-India BIT. However, one may find this kind of attachment of the MFN clause is standard protocol and nothing new to the investment lawyers.
Commonalities with Indian Model BIT
Although most of the BITs do embrace MFN clause as a standard procedure, the Brazil-India BIT does not include the same. Brazil conceded not to include MFN clause although its Model BIT provides for the same under article 6. There is no provision of the MFN clause in the Indian Model BIT. Taxation related regulatory measures have been put outside the purview of the treaty under article 20 of Brazil-India BIT. The same is offered by Indian Model BIT under article 2.4 with a minor variance that host-state’s decision on the impugned measure is taxation related, is final and non-justiciable. Whereas article 20 of the Brazil-India BIT does not use the word non-justiciable as such. Both Brazil-India BIT and Indian Model BIT have adopted General Exceptions clause under articles 23.1 and article 33.1 respectively. One may find that article 23.1 of the Brazil-India BIT is a reproduction of article 33.1 of Indian Model BIT. In terms of Security Exceptions clause, both Brazil-India BIT and Indian Model BIT have encompassed under article 24 and article 33 respectively. Again the Security Exceptions clause of Brazilian-Indian BIT is influenced from Indian Model BIT. Article 24 is almost a reproduction of article 33 of the Indian Model BIT with an insignificant alteration in article 24.3.
After analysing Brazil-India BITs with Model BITs, the present author opines that newly concluded BITs between two nations rests mostly on Brazilian Model BIT. Although two countries have compromised on certain aspects. As it does contain SSDS system excluding the ISDS system of dispute settlement and the indirect expropriation clause. We witness the Brazil-India BIT is based on the principle of dispute prevention rather than the prevalent notion of dispute settlement. It is designed in such a way that it will be productive in preventing disputes more effectively. This unique dispute prevention tactic needs appreciation. The modern economic affairs hardly witness nationalisation or the direct takeover of foreign investment. As a result, in the absence of rules of indirect expropriation, it could well be expected that a certain degree of foreign investment protection would be weakened. After White Industries Arbitration case, asluicegate was opened for foreign investors’ claims which put at risk Indian government. Recently, India had terminated a close to 60 investment agreements which were based on the investor-centric approach of 2003 Indian Model BIT. In 2016, India published its new model BIT and started negotiation with other states, which is state-centric. After thorough analysing of the provisions, one can certainly reach to the conclusion that Indian Model BIT2015 gives precedence to host-state’s right to regulate over investment protection. This new Brazil-India BIT is even more placed on host-state’s sovereign right to regulate. As Indian Model BIT has been compromised most of the time while inking the Brazil-India BIT, the question remains to see in future BIT negotiations; whether India sticks to its own Model BIT or pay heed to the terms advances by the counterparts; hesitatingly or readily.
Pakistan: Heading towards Prosperity
Prime Minister Imran Khan had been giving hopes to the nations for the national development by creating the jobs, and providing the shelters to the poor populations, during his party’s campaign for general elections 2018. Since holding the office, he has been trying to strategize the policies to fulfil his promises with the nation. Finally, PM Khan announced the incentives for the construction sector of the county. No doubt, such a giant enticement would help to create move jobs for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled worker, and would revive the country’s economy.
Besides playing the pivotal role in infrastructural development, the Construction industry also improves the well-being of the nation through good & services. It is to be considered as the key driver of the country’s infrastructural development. Studies suggest that the construction sector’s output have a significant shares of 40-60% in the country’s gross fixed capital and have linkages with the 60+ other industries. In the age of globalization, without wide infrastructural development, the country can’t contain and maintain linkages with the international markets. The Economic Survey of Pakistan’s report reveals that the construction activity within the country has declined by 7.57 percent. The PM Khan’s time to incentivize the construction sector would help in the country’s overall growth and development.
Contemporary, Pakistan is facing two main challenges i.e. economic crises and the COVID-19. The later has disrupted all the economic and trade activates across the globe. With the closure of borders for any activity, the economic crises in the county like Pakistan became more complex and severe. PM Khan’s timely announcement at-least stimulate the nation to hope for the better and prosperous future. Incompetent contractors, delay in procurements, delay in payments, inaccurate costestimates, in-accurate project schedule, in-competent project team, lack of project planning,in-competent project manager, delays in providing site access to contractors, uneven cash flows and delays in the designing phase are some of the highlighted issues in the development of construction sectors in Pakistan. However, these challenges can be overcome by imparting the latest skills to workers and students,using digital tools for manufacturing, design and assembly, eliminating the corrupt trends& practices in the industry, improving land regulation and digitalising building control standardise and building laws. For this, Pakistan’s administrations need to draft firm policies that help the country to foster the fruit of the given relaxation to the construction industrialists.
Either it is the sessions of parliament or the press conferences, the opposition parties in Pakistan, target the PM Khan’s government due to catastrophe in the system, flaws in governance and declining trends in the economy. Although, in the initials years, the current government in Pakistan could not provide much to the nations-particularly in the development sector. However, one needs to understand that even in the developed countries, the governments and the leaders take time to fulfil their promises. PM Khan still remember his commitment to the nation and trying to deliver the best as per the country’s capacity. However, earlier, initiating KamyabJawan, The Ehsaas Amdan (Income) programmeand announcing a multibillion PM’s relief package during the COVID-19, are also the reflections of the leader’s visionary & longstanding efforts.It doesn’t mean to declare ‘Everything is fine’ in Pakistan, however affirming ‘Pakistan; Heading towards Prosperity’ is due.
To conclude, although, encouraging the investors in construction industry would help the to uplift the living standards of the populations, but the projects would need strong firm affirmation and commitments from all the stakeholders, as initiating a project never been a problem in Pakistan but the administration and management’s combine efforts and firm policies.
The birth of the modern concept of economic war and Bernard Esambert’s thought
Without my friend Bernard Esambert there would not certainly be the current concept of “economic warfare”.
Having studied at the Ėcole Polytechnicque, he is a natural heir to the best Colbertian, Saint-Simonian, positivist – and later Gaullist – tradition – which pervades the background and education of the modern and post-revolutionary French elites, with governments that pass and ruling classes that remain, as it must always be.
It is no coincidence that, at the beginning of a book he wrote in 1971, Le Trosième Conflict Mondial, Esambert mentioned an old Saint-Simonian song, written by Rouget de Lisle, which glorified science and technology, as the new leaders of peoples after the so-called âge de l’obscurité. Rouget de Lisle, a French army officer, was the poet who wrote the words and music of La Marseillaise.
Two facts that, symbolically, are certainly not by chance.
After having been a mining engineer (and the engineering sector is traditionally a great area of recruitment for the intelligence Services and the French senior management) Esambert became a great commis d’Ėtat. Une vie d’influence, just to recall the title of one of his recent books, Une vie d’influence – dans les coulisses de la Ve République.
Finally, Esambert became a point of reference for Georges Pompidou, who later called him to collaborate with him – as a man of influence – at the Presidency of the Republic.
As Benedetto Croce – a too much forgotten philosopher – used to say, you can always and only implement “the possible liberalism”, well knowing that the real economy is made up of an agreement between private enterprise and State management, which is the one that always really counts.
It has always been and it will always be so. This is the first criterion for setting the scene of an economic warfare which – as Bernard Esambert himself noted for the first time – applies always and everywhere, and is never forgotten, unless severely defeated, even by the modern States that want to win a challenge that always lasts and has never one single face – a warfare, financial, technological, political, cultural and organizational one.
The economic warfare worked well also in ancient Greece: the overpopulation in Athens; the need for commercial outlets in Central Asia; the expansion of Greeks to Southern Italy, where the Bruttians, after having taken their idols with them, hid in the mountains without ever seeing the sea again.
The faces of economic warfare are always manifold and all of them always work. Whoever forgets some of them is always bound to lose.
Certainly there are the current young and brilliant French analysts operating in the intelligence Services and the training sector, who belong to the Ėcole de Guerre Ėconomique (ĖGE) founded precisely by Esambert, based on an old idea developed by Christian Harbulot. There are also the new Italian initiatives in the academic world, all designed more to showing up and flattering the Heads of the intelligence Agencies, for whatever small favours – the usual and often imaginary “small powers” of the Italian academic world, always a bit stingy, after the long season of the roadshow organized by the Intelligence Department (DIS), at the time of the Interior Minister, Marco Minniti, as “Authority responsible for the Intelligence Services”, from 2013 to the end of Renzi’s Government.
In this regard, we should also recall Ambassador Giampiero Massolo, who was the first supporter of the Italian intelligence services’ roadshow in the Italian academic world – now very badly damaged – more to improve the Agencies’ image than to really seek new recruits for the intelligence Services, which have always well selected their people inside and outside the universities, without any need for chattering or showing off.
Moreover, as we all know, the young people who were recruited by means of the website sicurezzanazionale.gov.it were quickly dismissed from the Agencies and now vegetate in other sectors of the Public Administration.
It is not a matter of “young” and “old” people or of creating some fashionable opportunities for declining universities, but rather of ensuring that the whole Italian ruling class endeavours for a well-designed and, above all, stable economic warfare.
As far as I know, for the time being there exists only one specific Master in Economic Intelligence in Italy, organized by the Institute of High Strategic and Political Studies (IASSP) in Milan. I have been told that also Harbulot participated in it.
But once again, this has nothing to do with the decades-long tradition of intelligence and economic ruling class in France, Great Britain and even the United States, not to mention also the small countries that walked out from the Warsaw Pact, with great intelligence and efforts.
It was Esambert himself, already present in an old but already usual and obvious Davos Conference – a now well-known fashionable meeting of those who believe they are authoritative people but, indeed, are nothing – who told about the exit of the old General Jaruzelsky, the strong man of the Polish counter-coup to avoid the occupation by a weak Warsaw Pact, when the old Polish General, whose right-hand man was a NATO spy, openly said he wanted Western investment in Poland and was also ready to progressively liberalize the zloty, as well as finally accept the Western business rules and Western capital coming to Poland.
Obviously subject to the control of the old-but-new-regime.
Here is the real success of an excellent economic warfare – not the many small stories that the globalized rich people usually tell to their useless and always gauchistes children, since it is fashionable.
Incidentally, it should be recalled that even Adam Smith, the inventor of “political economy” according to the basic rules of the British global interests of his time, was a free trade theorist in the markets where Great Britain had to settle, but supported the strictest protectionism, just when it came to closing the national or colonial British markets to the attack of the cheap goods of European competitors and, later, of the 13 colonies that were to become independent on the East Coast of North America.
Here, once again, the problem is scarcity, which just today – as always said by Esambert – seems far away, at least from what Mao Zedong called “the world’s metropolises”.
However, there is instead the natural and induced scarcity. Nowadays we live in induced scarcity, which does not need wars “for raw materials” – as the German geopolitics of the 1930s theorized – but it is the induced scarcity of modern consumption, which needs technology, expert management and States capable of expanding strategically, as well as modern factories. Here it is the new and inevitable economic warfare.
Either we win or lose, but always continuously. In contemporary economic warfare, there is no “declaration of peace”. Quite the reverse.
This is the real core of the issue. If we can no longer build monopolies by managing scarcity – as always happened when modern capitalism was established, according to Adam Smith – how can we today favour the national companies and the typical products of our region, if there are no longer real trade wars, such as the penetration of the East India Company in the Far East and in China, or the British oil trade closures in the Middle East, to take Kurdish oil in Haifa when Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, turned the British military navigation from coal into oil navigation, or the operations of the Belgian royal family alone in Congo, or the French possessions in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia?
The choice of Habib Bourghiba – Mussolini’s guest in Rome – to secretly deal with De Gaulle’s France Libre, when he realized that Rommel and his Afrika Korps were in disarray, can be considered a technique of economic and commercial warfare. He sold his Destour covert network, previously operating with the Axis, in exchange for independence, after the victory of the Western liberal democracies which Habib, indeed, did not like so much.
Lacking a real effective and modern colonial experience, Italy still does not know how to export its productive potential, which is what really counts.
From Giolitti’s to Mussolini’s time, Italy treated its colonies as simple ways out for the rural overpopulation, especially when the exit routes to the United States or South America were blocked.
Italy made the only mistake it should not make.
It even lost the Libyan oil, which was taken back only with the coup of Gaddafi, a creature of Italy’s intelligence Services.
The Italian politicians currently in power support the idea of going abroad to transfer our potential for economic warfare either as door-to-door sellers of the all too famous Made in Italy – which, indeed, almost sells itself – or in search of external and distant areas where to make our agonizing small and medium-sized enterprises survive as long as possible, so as to squeeze every last drop of the labour cost differential.
Either fashion, the brand – now in foreign hands – or begging to prolong the agony of some SMEs which are interesting for political, electoral and financial reasons.
Two attitudes which are deeply wrong – precisely in substance. As Esambert used to say, every country goes to sell abroad certainly not to repeat the plot of the beautiful 1959 movie by Francesco Rosi, The Magliari, set – not by chance – in Germany, but to win and wipe out its competitors.
This movie could teach much to the Italian politicians currently bleating for German “help”. They should watch it again and think about the behaviour of the two main characters -masterfully interpreted by Renato Salvatori and Alberto Sordi – who are defeated when trying to antagonize their Polish rivals, the previous “magliari”.
You never go abroad to propose a factory or a business, but you always go – willingly or unwillingly – to propose a way of doing business, a success story, a lifestyle, a product that must therefore be ipso facto protected, supported, advertised – for which imitations must be stopped, on site and elsewhere, and for which it is necessary to create a stable dependence of the target country and a powerful image in the foreign market of reference.
Nothing to do with the ramshackle, slow, inefficient, impolitic style – all aimed at simply making a deal, at striking a “bargain” – often characterizing our foreign policy, even in countries that Italy should tread very carefully and in which it should proceed with extreme caution.
Foreign countries must be conquered with trade, exactly as they could be conquered with a real battled war, if this were possible today.
In fact, every trade treaty is a peace treaty which, however, must clearly show the will of those who have won, i.e. – in Italy’s specific case – the productive system of those who have come from outside.
Certainly, today even economic wars are no longer made – at least in principle – to support a market that can absorb our surplus.
Marx’s old criterion of surplus value, which is certainly useful today as a way to analyse the evolution of modern capitalism.
As Esambert always says, economic wars are made to create room – outside and inside the old national perimeter – for counteracting and fighting against everybody’s adverse actions – both friends and foes – in our productive system.
Whoever loses faces – without time limits – the disasters of globalization (uncontrolled immigration, pollution, the classic combination of unemployment and inflation), while whoever wins offloads the problems on his global competitors.
And again there is no time limit.
When Spain was still under Franco’s regime, the State of Madrid created an instrument of economic warfare just with SEAT, in 1950, thanks to a small contribution of FIAT capital.
Later in 1985, SEAT became part of the German group Wolkswagen Aktiengesellschaft – created on the basis of an old project by the Führer.
The huge Catalan factory was inaugurated in Martorell by King Juan Carlos in 1993.
FIAT left and VW came in powerfully, with no local or European competitors.
Was it not an economic warfare operation? Of course it was.
At that time, Italy was numbed with the Clean Hands judiciary probe and no one noticed that Germany was taking over Spain’s basic industries after the end of the Caudillo’s regime.
This happened also in other parts of the world.
Starting from the imprisonment and the related suicide of the old ENI President, Cagliari, until the never resolved issues of Gardini’s death, in the connection between the takeover of Montedison and the fanciful creation of Enimont, the whole Clean Hands judicial investigation was, however, an accelerated operation to sell off Italy’s primary industrial system, pending the fall of the Berlin Wall and the truly endogenous crisis of the Italian political system.
There was, at first, the sale of primary assets, ranging from the motorway company Società Autostrade to the food holding SME – of which I had a first-hand experience – and later the redesign of the system of bribes from companies to the political system, which began with ENI’s disruption following Cagliari’s imprisonment, until the creation of a new network of funding to a “new” political system, where all parties were renamed – according to a potentially two-party system – “progressive” and “conservative” or even “liberal”.
Was it not an economic warfare operation? Of course it was. Many large and small companies became attractive to large foreign investors that were favoured, while the Italian State-owned and private companies faded away, struck by the new moralists’ blows.
What happened, at that time, in Mitterrand’s France or in the Great Britain led by Margaret Thatcher who, however, was ousted from Downing Street by a clique of Tories, involved in a large helicopter business affair?
We can also recall Liu Tenan, the Chinese Head of the “Development Commission”, expelled from the CPC; Rouhani himself in Iran that saw the 1979 Revolution in danger because of corruption, or Ana Mato, the Health Minister who resigned because of the scandal that in 2014 sullied the reputation of the entire Partido Pupular in Spain – not to mention the fact at least 2.3% of the world GDP fuels global corruption.
Can we believe that all this came only from what had happened in Italy?
Once again the usual moralistic parochialism sets in, a short-lived legacy of the snobbery of Italy’s old Action Party, whose liberal Socialism – taunted by Croce – led Italy to be a pale imitation of Great Britain, the eternal myth of all poor politicians and managers wearing grisaille suits.
Hence the final formula: the mix of legal and non-legal, advertising, political, military, strategic and monetary protection and support for the local ruling classes, as well as the fair and rational relations with the target country, are called exactly “economic warfare”.
There is no other way to make foreign policy and establish international relations, even non-economic ones. There is only and always economic warfare.
Hence, after this explicit and direct phase of the inevitable economic clash for survival between nations, there is the phase in which “companies are used as armies and management and business schools are used as schools for officers”, and entrepreneurs and business leaders are seen as new generals. In fact Akira Kurosawa, the director of the movie Seven Samurai and a descendant from a Samurai family, wanted – in a later movie of 1980, Kagemusha (Shadow Warrior) – to describe Japanese business leaders as new Samurai.
Every economic action is a “covert” act of war. Every act of war can also be turned into an economic action, which instead of being a cost – unsustainable in the long run – is a real bargain or can even become so.
Economic warfare shifts the cost of operations onto the victim.
Attractiveness and competitiveness are now complementary, while Italy is the 7th world exporter of goods, but it only ranks 18th in terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the territory.
The current FDI is an instrument of external hegemony, not a system of national power or of projection of our economic and non-economic power onto the countries that receive our goods or that – in any case – should consume them, instead of our competitors’ products.
The economic warfare also stems from the fact that all the great Western countries produce more or less the same goods.
Nevertheless, in Italy 43% of the companies currently listed on the Stock Exchange are owned by foreign businesses. Obviously, there is no direct correlation between the quality of management of the various industries and their ownership. However, do you believe that if a French bank manager has to organize a strategy for his own company, he will pay heed to the large multifarious group of his small investors – as currently happens in Italy – or will he rather consider the ideas coming from some State think tanks in Paris, or possibly from one of his Ministers, or even from a colleague in Lyon or Grenoble?
According to the 2018 data, in Italy the foreign investors’ shareholdings of listed companies currently amount to 196.4 billion euro, i.e. 43% of the total.
The shareholdings of listed joint stock companies owned by Italian businesses are worth 25.8%, with the State holding 2.7% of the total portfolio. Hence it is certainly not difficult to imagine that, in this framework of international economic equilibria, Italy would have an extreme need for a policy of economic warfare.
This also applies to cultural or humanitarian operations.
Goodness knows what the organization Mèdecins sans Frontières was for France, or the management of the U.S. or Canadian grain overproduction was for the U.S. power projection policy in third countries or in those suffering humanitarian crises.
Whoever eats your wheat becomes your friend, whoever is saved by your doctors will never make war on you but, above all, will gladly buy your products, when the crisis is over and France or the United States will present local governments with the bill for its humanitarian operations.
Moreover, in 2011 the Italian multinationals were as many as 6,500 Italian, while currently they are decidedly fewer and often smaller.
Not to mention Italy’s cultural and hegemonic penetration – virtually nothing, apart from a few old-style and ramshackle elite operations for socialites.
We need more than beautiful girls, superstar chefs or art exhibitions. It takes guts to penetrate and hegemonize a distant market. It is an operation in which companies and the intelligence Services shall participate simultaneously, and shall be ever less tied to the cliques of revolving-door government and also less parochial in their actions. Even humanitarian organizations, some universities – less familist than usual – as well as the fashion world, newspapers, TV networks, cinema and all the many other instruments of attraction and seduction shall take part in this operation.
An operation which, however, must be stable and well-designed, otherwise we risk repeating what happened when an Italian President of the Republic, while visiting the Chinese Great Wall, learnt that the German Prime Minister was coming for a flying visit to Beijing so as to sign an agreement between the German and Chinese large car manufacturers.
A dinner, some greetings and a quick return to Berlin.
Unless the full criterion of the “economic warfare” is followed – as must be done according to Bernard Esambert’s guidelines – Italy will always be relegated to the sidelines of the great global economic development and it will not reap the fruits but only the damage of globalization – as is already currently happening.
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