[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] new distribution of the strategic, geoeconomic, military and political potentials is currently taking place in the world. Hence we must orient these new mechanisms towards a peaceful, homogeneous and stable development of the world market and the world system. Otherwise – and once again there are signs of a possible war – our global system will collapse without producing practicable alternative options.
The fault lines of this new world order – much different from the one set by the United States after the end of the Soviet hegemony over the Third World – are mostly shaped by the large regional alliances.
Currently war is waged to conquer fault lines, border areas, the Rimland.
Suffice to think of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC), set up in 1989 and now joining 21 countries, including China and the United States, in addition to Japan, which is the gateway for the economic integration of the Asian-Pacific region – an area with a very high economic and strategic potential at world level.
Or we can mention the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), founded in 1967 and now counting eleven members, which is the main bridge between Asia and Europe and partly overlaps with APEC in terms of membership.
Nor can we forget the Council of Arab Economic Unity (CAEU), created in 1964 by eighteen African and Arab countries to foster regional economic integration.
We must also mention the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), established in 1973 and based on the European Single Market model, which may even be turned into a political union, according to the plan already adopted by the Member States, which will be implemented between 2018 and 2020. Nor should we forget the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), founded in 1975 and currently turned from an economic integration instrument into a mechanism of institutional and political reform – in this connection, suffice to think of the role played by ECOWAS in the recent coup in Ghana.
We should also mention NATO, but this topic will be analyzed later. Finally it is worth recalling the Southern African Development Community (SADC), founded in 1992 as regional common market for its eleven Member States, but currently also turned into an instrument for the political transformation of the region.
These are economic alliances established to take advantage of globalization by offering cheap labour and a series of infrastructure and, at the same time, resist globalization by blocking the inevitable attempts of each State to resort to the “beggar thy neighbour” rule.
They are all regional alliances established in previously dishomogeneous areas in terms of geopolitical loyalty, type of development, economic potential, as well as relations with the European countries or the United States.
This means that all the abovementioned alliances are alliances of the Rimland, of the peripheral areas surrounding the real geopolitical masses: the Sino-Russian Heartland, with the Indian and Iranian appendices towards the Greater Middle East, and the Eurasian appendix towards the European peninsula; Africa, and the Pacific peripheral areas, not surprisingly with many crossed economic alliances; finally, the United States and Canada with the Latin American appendix.
China wants to achieve hegemony over the Pacific, but it has difficulties in having access to that ocean. The Russian Federation records economic and strategic differences among its wide regions. Europe is deciding to fall apart, by favouring both the United States and Russia at the same time. India is planning a geopolitical future as hegemonic power over the Himalayan region and as global power broker on all Asian seas, in connection with the Mediterranean.
The Mare Nostrum, the future global hub, is in the hands of the most radical destabilizers, torn between jihad and counter-jihad, between increasingly weak nation-States and mass Islamic militants of “the sword jihad”.
Finally, a new sequence of trade and economic wars is shaping within this classic geopolitical system.
In the recent Davos Forum, Xi Jinping rightly said that “no one has to gain from trade wars.”
China exports to the United States more than the latter exports to China.
Hence none of the two has to gain from a trade war, but it is likely that the United States would lose more.
And China mainly controls the global chains of components, which are currently worth 80% of the whole global flow of goods.
Suffice to consider the fine electronics sector.
In fact, it was the quick fall in transport prices which enabled the large global companies to split the supply chains among various countries, many of which belonging to networks and associations of which we have already spoken.
Therefore the Rimland is no longer such and it is creating relations with the countries which define their primary productions: the South East Asian network reaches up to China and partly to India; the Middle East is joining the Sino-Russian axis (Iran) or the North-African one; Latin America will find itself divided between the United States, the European Union and China, which wants to unite the two Pacific shores.
A trade war between China and the United States, with the creation of symmetric trade barriers, would generate strong inflationary pressure in the United States, followed by a Federal Reserve’s policy which shall gradually raise interest rates more than the US economy needs.
The solution could be a new bilateral commercial treaty between the United States and China, which would enable the US companies to gain access to the huge Chinese market and would also enable China to increase its direct investment in the US market.
It is worth noting that America has large trade deficits with most of its trading partners in Asia – the Vietnamese surplus with the United States alone accounts for 15% of the Vietnamese GDP.
Probably, in the near future, President Trump will decide to revise trade relations also with India, Indonesia and Malaysia, but certainly a country that currently runs so large trade deficits, such as the United States, is highly vulnerable to any kind of economic warfare attack.
The Euro and the European Union have suffered – and are still suffering – from monetary and trade wars which are easy to predict: Greece’s persisting crisis, which will lead the European Union to lose its strategic Southern flank, to the benefit of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey; “the spread war” between France and Germany – not to mention Italy’s decline and the new Spanish autonomy, halfway between Latin American temptations and North African plans.
Even in the Balkans, Croatia is imposing non-tariff restrictions on Macedonia, while there is a clear trade war going on between the United States and Germany.
While the Americans rightly think that the Euro is an undervalued German Mark, enabling Germany to take advantage both of the EU countries and the United States.
Therefore, in America, the Europeans attack some technology platforms, such as Apple or Google and, in response, the United States attack European and especially German car-making companies on the issue of emissions.
Today’s trade wars are waged with indirect strategies and are soft wars, although they are often heavily defamatory.
On the financial side, many multinationals buy the huge public debt of some smaller and weaker States (and this holds true also for Italy) and securitize it by hiding its origin and source; finally they sell it thanks to the shelter of their tax havens.
This, too, is a trade war – a new type, but even fiercer than the traditional one – possibly with the “Black Ships” of Commodore Perry for the opening of Japan to US trade, as happened in 1853.
Not to mention tax dumping which attracts major investors to a country, but leaves the others without a penny, compelled by their public debt or the bad valuation of their public debt securities to keep corporate taxes high.
Furthermore austerity policies make taxation regressive: those who earn less pay slightly more.
Hence markets shrink, with obvious knock-on effects on taxation and development rates.
Furthermore, the purely geopolitical and military crisis points are well-known, but basically they are all attempts to acquire peripheral territories to achieve the goal of controlling commercial networks, the comparatively more efficient production areas, the extraction of raw materials and public debt.
Ukraine, for example, could be invaded by the Russian Federation and force NATO to a counteroffensive.
It is also worth recalling the issue of the Senkaku-Diaoyo islands, a point of tension between Japan and China for controlling the Pacific – islands which are a very rich fishing area and a possible oil field.
The fact must not be neglected that the military treaties signed in the aftermath of the Second World War oblige the United States to support, with its Armed Forces, Japan and the other countries which would be certainly threatened by the Chinese operations in the Senkaku-Diaoyo archipelago.
Finally we must analyze the future tension between China and Russia on their Eastern border, which could increasingly mount due to China’s demographic characteristics and Russia’s weakness in this regard.
Iran does not yet know whether it wants to challenge the Saudi Sunni power with weapons and the “indirect strategy” of the Shiite Islam’s unification or to expand into the Shiite region of Central Asia, up to Afghanistan and well beyond.
He cannot wish both but, whatever Iran decides, it will have military relevance.
North Korea wants the stability of its regime and the security of its borders, as well as foreign investment to stabilize its economy.
Here again there will be a point of tension that China has no intention of supporting in the long run – and this is a further factor of instability in the region.
What can be done? We must immediately stabilize monetary balances, with a currency defined – in set percentages – by the US Dollar, the Chinese Yuan, the Euro, the Rouble, the Indian Rupee and the Japanese Yen.
This will automatically redesign the world trade trends and routes, thus avoiding the trade wars which persist in peripheral areas to conquer them.
Later we shall think of a sort of “Register of financial securities” at global level.
As the Land Register and the accurate measurements of plots led to the creation of modern taxation in nation-States, the integration of the various databases for the transactions of all kinds of financial securities will enable to have such a new taxation system as to avoid many of the current failed States.
Synchronicity in Economic Policy amid the Pandemic
Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see. –Carl Jung
The Covid pandemic has elicited a number of deficiencies in the current global governance framework, most notably its weaknesses in mustering a coordinated response to the global economic downturn. A global economy is not fully “global” if it is devoid of the capability to conduct coordinated and effective responses to a global economic crisis. What may be needed is a more flexible governance structure in the world economy that is capable of exhibiting greater synchronicity in economic policies across countries and regions. Such a governance structure should accord greater weight to regional integration arrangements and their development institutions at the level of key G20 decisions concerning international economic policy coordination.
The need for greater synchronicity in the global economy arises across several trajectories:
· Greater synchronicity in the anti-crisis response across countries and regions – according to the IMF it is a coordinated response that renders economic stimulus more efficacious in countering the global downturn
· Synchronicity in the withdrawal of stimulus across the largest economies – absent such coordination the timing of policy normalization could be postponed with negative implications for macroeconomic stability
· Greater synchronicity in opening borders, lifting lockdowns and other policy measures related to responding to the pandemic: such synchronicity provides more scope for cross-country and cross-regional value-added chains to boost production
· Greater synchronicity in ensuring a recovery in migration and the movement of people across borders.
Of course such greater synchronicity in economic policy should not undermine the autonomy of national economic policy – it is rather about the capability of national and regional economies to exhibit greater coordination during downturns rather than a progression towards a uniform pattern of economic policy across countries. Synchronicity is not only about policy coordination per se, but also about creating the infrastructure that facilitates such joint actions. This includes the conclusion of digital accords/agreements that raise significantly the potential for economic policy coordination. Another area is the development of physical infrastructure, most notably in the transportation sphere. Such measures serve to improve regional and inter-regional connectivity and provide a firmer foundation for regional economic integration.
The paradox in which the world economy finds itself is that even as the current crisis is leading to fragmentation and isolationism there is a greater need for more policy coordination and synchronicity to overcome the economic downturn. This need for synchronicity may well increase in the future given the widening array of global risks such as risks to cyber-security as well as energy security and climate change. There is also the risk of the depletion of reserves to counter the Covid crisis that has been accompanied by a rise in debt levels across developed and developing economies. Also, the speed of the propagation of crisis impulses (that effectively increases with technological advances and globalization) is not matched by the capability of economic policy coordination and efficiency of anti-crisis policies.
There may be several modes of advancing greater synchronicity across borders in international relations. One possible option is a major superpower using its clout in a largely unipolar setting to facilitate greater policy coordination. Another possibility is for such coordination to be supported by global international institutions such as the UN, the WTO, Bretton Woods institutions, etc. Other options include coordination across the multiplicity of all countries of the global economy as well as across regional integration arrangements and institutions.
Attaining greater synchronicity across countries will necessitate changes in the global governance framework, which currently is characterized by weak multilateral institutions at the top level and a fragmented framework of governance at the level of countries. What may be needed is a greater scope accorded to regional integration arrangements that may facilitate greater coordination of synchronicity at the regional level as well as across regions. The advantage of providing greater weight to the regional institutions in dealing with global economic downturns emanates from their greater efficiency in coordinating an anti-crisis response at the regional level via investment/infrastructure projects as well as macroeconomic policy coordination. Regional development institutions also have a comparative advantage in leveraging regional interdependencies to promote economic recovery.
In conclusion, the global economy has arguably become more fragmented as a result of the Covid pandemic. The multiplicity of country models of dealing with the pandemic, the “vaccine competition”, the breaking up of global value chains and their nationalization and regionalization all point in the direction of greater localization and self-sufficiency. At the same time there is a need from greater synchronicity across countries particularly in the context of the current pandemic crisis. Regional integration arrangements and institutions could serve to facilitate such coordination in economic policy within and across the major regions of the world economy.
From our partner RIAC
A New Strategy for Ukraine
Authors: Anna Bjerde and Novoye Vremia
Four years ago, the World Bank prepared a multi-year strategy to support Ukraine’s development goals. This was a period of recovery from the economic crisis of 2014-2015, when GDP declined by a cumulative 16 percentage points, the banking sector collapsed, and poverty and other measures of insecurity spiked. Indeed, we noted at the time that Ukraine was at a turning point.
Four years later, despite daunting internal and external challenges, including an ongoing pandemic, Ukraine is a stronger country. It has proved more resilient to unpredictable challenges and is better positioned to achieve its long-term development vision. This increased capacity is first and foremost the result of the determination of the Ukrainian people.
The World Bank is proud to have joined the international community in supporting Ukraine during this period. I am here in Kyiv this week to launch a new program of assistance. In doing this, we look back to what worked and how to apply those lessons going forward. In Ukraine—as in many countries—the chief lesson is that development assistance is most effective when it supports policies and projects which the government and citizens really want.
This doesn’t mean only easy or even non-controversial measures; rather, it means we engage closely with government authorities, business, local leaders, and civil society to understand where policy reforms may be most effective in removing obstacles to growth and human development and where specific projects can be most successful in delivering social services, particularly to the poorest.
Looking back over the past four years in Ukraine, a few examples stand out. First, agricultural land reform. For the past two decades, Ukraine was one of the few countries in the world where farmers were not free to sell their land.
The prohibition on allowing farmers to leverage their most valuable asset contributed to underinvestment in one of Ukraine’s most important sources of growth, hurt individual landowners, led to high levels of rural unemployment and poverty, and undermined the country’s long-term competitiveness.
The determination by the President and the actions by the government to open the market on July 1 required courage. This was not an easy decision. Powerful and well-connected interests benefited from the status quo; but it was the right one for Ukrainian citizens.
A second area where we have been closely involved is governance, both with respect to public institutions and the rule of law, as well as the corporate governance of state-owned banks and enterprises. Poll after poll in Ukraine going back more than a decade revealed that strengthening public institutions and creating a level playing field for business was a top priority.
World Bank technical assistance and policy financing have supported measures to restore liability for illicit enrichment of public officials, to strengthen existing anticorruption agencies such as NABU and NACP, and to create new institutions, including the independent High-Anticorruption Court.
We are also working with government to ensure the integrity of state-owned enterprises. Our support to the government’s unbundling of Naftogaz is a good example; assistance in establishing supervisory boards in state-owned banks is another. We hope our early dialogue on modernizing the operations of Ukrzaliznytsia will be equally beneficial.
As we begin preparation of a new strategy, the issues which have guided our ongoing work—strengthening markets, stabilizing Ukraine’s fiscal and financial accounts; and providing inclusive social services more efficiently—remain as pressing today as they were in 2017. Indeed, the progress which has been achieved needs to continue to be supported as they frequently come under assault from powerful interests.
At the same time, recent years have highlighted emerging challenges where we hope to deepen and expand our engagement. First, COVID-19 has underscored the importance of our long partnership in health reform and strengthening social protection programs.
The changes to the provision of health care in Ukraine over recent years has helped mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and will continue to make Ukrainians healthier. Government efforts to better target social spending to the poor has also made a difference. We look forward to continuing our support in both areas, including over the near term through further support to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
Looking ahead, the challenge confronting us all is climate change. Here again, our dialogue with the government has positioned us to help, including to achieve Ukraine’s ambitious commitment to reduce carbon emissions. During President Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington in early September we discussed operations to strengthen the electricity sector; a program to transition from coal power to renewables; municipal energy efficiency investments; and how to tap into Ukraine’s unique capacity to produce and store hydrogen energy. This is a bold agenda, but one that can be realized.
I have been gratified by my visit to Kyiv to see first-hand what has been achieved in recent years. I look forward to our partnership with Ukraine to help realize this courageous vision of the future.
Originally published in Ukrainian language in Novoye Vremia, via World Bank
Russia, China and EU are pushing towards de-dollarization: Will India follow?
Authors: Divyanshu Jindal and Mahek Bhanu Marwaha*
The USD (United States Dollar) has been the world’s dominant currency since the conclusion of the second world war. Dollar has also been the most sought reserve currency for decades, which means it is held by central banks across the globe in significant quantities. Dollar is also primarily used in cross-border transactions by nations and businesses. Without a doubt, US dollar’s dominance is a major reason for the US’ influence over public and private entities operating around the world. This unique position not only makes US the leader in the financial and monetary system, but also provides incomparable leverage when it comes to coercive ability to shape decisions taken by governments, businesses, and institutions.
However, this dynamic is undergoing gradual and visible changes with the emergence of China, slowdown in the US economy, European Union’s independent policy assertion, Russia-US detachment, and increasing voices from across the world to create a polycentric world and financial system in which hegemonic capacities can be muted. The world is witnessing de-dollarisation attempts and ambitions, as well as the rise of digital or cryptocurrencies at an increasing pace today.
With Russia, China and EU leading the way in the process of de-dollarisation, it needs to be argued whether India, currently among the most dollarized countries (in invoicing), will take cue from the global trends and push towards de-dollarisation as well.
The dominant role of dollar in the global economy provides US disproportionate amount of influence over other economies. As international trade needs a payment and financial system to take place, any nation in position to dictate the terms and policies over these systems can create disturbances in trade between other players in the system. This is how imposition of sanctions work in theory.
The US has for long used imposition of sanctions as a tool to achieve foreign policy and goals, which entails restricting access to US-led services in payment and financial transaction processing domains.
In recent years, several nations have started opposing the unilateral decisions taken by the US, a trend which accelerated under the former president Donald Trump’s tenure. He withdrew US from the JCPOA deal between Iran and US, aimed at Iran’s compliance with nuclear discipline and non-proliferation. Albeit US withdrawal, other signatories like EU, Russia, and China expressed discontent towards the unilateral stance by the US and stayed committed towards the deal and have desired for continued engagements with Iran in trade and aid.
Similarly, the sanctions imposed on Russia in the aftermath of the Crimean conflict in 2014 did not find the reverberations among allies to the extent that US had wanted. While EU members had switched to INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) which acts as a special-purpose vehicle to facilitate non-USD trade with Iran to avoid US sanctions, EU nations like Germany continue to have deep trade ties with Russia, and EU remains the largest investor as well the biggest trade partner for Russia, with trade taking place in euros, instead of dollars.
Further, despite the close US-EU relations, EU has started its own de-dollarization push. This became more explicit when earlier this year, EU announced plans to prioritize the euro as an international and reserved currency, in direct competition with dollar.
Trajectories of Russia, China, and EU’s de-dollarisation push
Russia has emerged as the nation with the most vigorous policies oriented towards de-dollarization. In 2019, the then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had invited Russia’s partners to cooperate towards a mechanism for switching to use of national currencies when it comes to transactions between the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It must be noted that in Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which functions as a Russian-led trade bloc, more than 70 percent of the settlements are happening in national currencies. Further, in recent years, Russia has also switched to settlements in national currencies with India (for arms contracts) and the two traditionally strong defence partners are aiming at exploring technology as means for payment in national currencies.
Russia’s push to detach itself from the US currency can also be seen in the transforming nature of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves where Russia for the first time had more gold reserves than dollars according to the 2018 data (22 percent dollars, 23 percent gold, 33 percent Euros, 12 percent Yuan). As per the statement by Russian Finance Minister in 2021, Russia aims to hold 40 percent euro, 30 percent yuan, 20 percent gold and 5 percent each of Japanese yen and British pound. In comparison, China holds a significant amount of dollar denominated assets as forex reserves (50 to 60 percent) and has the US as its top export market with which trade takes place mostly in US dollars. Moreover, Russia has also led the push by creating its own financial messaging system- SPFS (The System for Transfer of Financial Messages) and a new national electronic payment system – Mir, which has witnessed an exponential rise in its use.
While China-Russia trade significantly depends on euros instead of their own national currencies (even though use of national currencies is slowly rising), instead of pushing the Chinese national currency Renminbi (RMB), Beijing is aiming towards establishing itself as the first nation to issue a sovereign digital currency, which would help China to engage in cross border payments without depending on the US financial systems. Thus, for China, digital currency seems to be the route towards countering the dollar dominance as well as to increase its own clout by leading the way for an alternate global financial system operating in digital currencies. It needs to be noted here that EU has succeeded in internationalizing the euro and this can be seen in the fact that EU-Russia trade as well as Russia-China trade occurs predominately in euros now.
Will India follow suit?
Indian economy’s dynamic with dollar is different than other major economies in the world today. Unlike China or Russia (or EU and Japan), which hold dollars in significant amounts, India’s reserve is not resulted by an export surplus. While others accumulate dollars from their earnings of trade surplus, India maintains a large forex reserve even though India imports less than it exports. In India’s case, the dollar reserves come through infusion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI), which reflects the confidence of foreign investors in India’s growth prospects. However, accumulation of dollar reserves through this route (which helps in offsetting the current deficit faced in trade), India remains vulnerable to policy changes by other nations’ monetary policies which are beyond India’s own control. For instance, it has been often highlighted that a tightening of the US monetary policy leads to capital outflows (capital flight) from India, thus impacting India adversely.
New Dehi has resisted a de-dollarization push for long. Back in 2009, when Russia and China had started the push via BRIC mechanism (Brazil, Russia, India, China grouping), it was argued that New Delhi would not like to upset Washington, especially after the historic US-India civil nuclear agreement was signed just a year before in 2008 -for full civil nuclear cooperation between the two nations.
Further, currency convertibility is an important part of global commerce as it opens trade with other countries and allows a government to pay for goods and services in a currency that may not be the buyer’s own. Non-convertible currency creates difficulties for participating in international market as the transactions take longer routes for processing (which in case of dollar transactions, is controlled by US systems).
Just like Chinese renminbi, Indian rupee is also not yet fully convertible at the exchange markets. While this means that India can control its burden of foreign debt, and inflow of capital for investment purposes in its economy, it also means an uneasy access to capital, less liquidity in financial market, and less business opportunities.
It can be argued that just like the case of China and Russia, India can also look towards having a digital currency in the near future, and some signs for this are already visible. India can also look towards having an increased share of euros and gold in its foreign exchange reserves, a method currently being used by both China and Russia.
An increasing number of voices are today pointing towards the arrival of the Asian age (or century). With China now being the leading economic power in the world, US economy on a slowdown, and emergence of an increasing polycentric structure in world economy, the dominance of dollar is bound to witness a shake-up. In order for global systems to remain in sync with the transforming economic order, structural changes like control over leading economic organisations (like IMF and World Bank) will become increasingly desirable.
With an increasing number of nations now looking towards digital currencies and considering a change in the mix of their foreign exchange reserves, a general trend is now visible even if it would not mean an end to dollar’s dominance in the immediate future. As the oil and gas trade in international markets also start shifting from dollar, geopolitical balance of power is expected to witness a shift after decades of US dominance.
Major geopolitical players like China, Russia and EU have already started their journey to counter the dominance of dollar, and the strings of US influence on political decisions that come with it. According to Chinese media, Afghanistan’s reconstruction after US-withdrawal can also accelerate the global de-dollarization push as nations like Saudi Arabia might look for establishing funds for assisting Afghanistan in non-dollar currencies. So, conflict areas highlight another avenue where de-dollarization push will find a testing arena in coming times.
India has several options for initiating its de-dollarization process. Starting from Russia-India transactions, trade with Iran, EAEU, BRICS and SCO members in national or digital currencies can also become a reality in near future. Considering India’s present dollar dependence, whether US sees India’s move towards de-dollarisation as a direct challenge to US-India relations, or accepts it as a shift in the global realities, has to be seen.
*Mahek Bhanu Marwaha is a master’s student in Diplomacy, Law and Business program at the OP Jindal Global University, India. Her research interests revolve around Indian and Chinese foreign policies and trade relations.
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