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The Italian Strategic Fund -CDP Equity: Structure and Future

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The “Italian Strategic Fund” (FSI) was established on July 28, 2011, with the then Economy Minister, Giulio Tremonti, and with the collaboration of the Treasury Director General, Vittorio Grilli, under the chairmanship of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), led at the time by Franco Bassanini, as well as with the support of CDP’s CEO, Giovanni GornoTempini.

 From the outset, like many but not all the several Strategic Funds existing in the world, the FSI has been a holding company with the primary aim of supporting strategic Italian companies.

 Strategic companies in terms of products, important for processes, decisive for technologies, essential for Italy’s cutting-edge technologies, like the Defence companies.

In this case, what does it really mean to be a “strategic company”?

The various schools of thought diverge on this point, but we could find a good definition by recalling that strategic companies are those essential for the medium-long term planning of the major and most promising sector of Italy’s industrial system.

 The idea of the FSI was also to favour the maximum efficiency of some companies and, in particular, to stimulate the enhancement  of their ability to “compete” at international level.

Initially, the FSI share capital was ridiculously low, i.e. one billion Euros, which rose almost immediately to 4 billion Euros.

However, in the initial projects and still today, the company’s endowment could have reached 7 billion Euros. Probably still too little.

Like all the similar funds currently operating in the world today, the Italian Strategic Fund is targeted to sound companies which, however, need a new capital injection.

Certainly, unlike before the great technological revolution of the Web and of logistic telecommunications, it is currently hard to speak about “national champions” as we had at the time of Renault or Fiat or, possibly, Autostrade.

Nowadays, with the Global Value Chains (GVCs), it is even hard to identify the direct nationality of products that we all consider characteristic and typical of a given nation.

With a view to understanding GVCs, we need to think above all about the geographical distribution of companies. All small and medium-sized enterprises. The other less known side of Schumacher’s “small is beautiful”.

 In the classic model of “delayed development”, which was generally accepted until the 1970s, the shift of the global production centre from the EU and the USA to Asia was interpreted only as the creation of a structural dependence of the non-Western peripheries on the Eurasian production centre.

The Marxist derivation of this model was Arghiri Emmanuel’s brilliant theory of unequal exchange, also developed in the early 1960s.

That was the origin of the theory of the world division between “rich” and “poor” countries. Currently, however, with the evident presence of world overproduction (and of financial securities to cover it) at the origin of the present economic crisis, since 2016there has been a tendency to think, instead, that there is an even more heuristic model, called “compressed development”.

Compressed development would be a criterion that puts at the centre of its interest the heterogeneity of the individual countries participating in the Global Value Chains, thus also taking into account the extraordinary difference in power of the large multinational companies compared to the infinite “peripheral” and often non-Western SMEs.

Hence the SMEs as essential factors of the new international division of labour, but depending on a higher system of GVC managers that is a cartel in individual sectors and a political and industrial agreement between different sectors.

Hence, while it is true that the highest value-added segments tend to still remain in the old Euro-American centre – although China is currently showing us a different strategy – it is equally true that a model explaining Global Value Chains with the old criterion of “comparative advantages” and asymmetry between centre and periphery no longer stands the test of time.

Hence what is the national economic interest? It is currently hard to answer this question.

 We are partially helped by Hecksler-Ohlin’s theory stating that a “nation mainly exports goods requiring factors of production it has in abundance (labour, specialized technology, capital) and that it can most efficiently and plentifully produce”.

Therefore, the share of comparative advantages stems from the composition of its primary production formula, which is selected by the global competition of SMEs compared to those who monopolistically control global chains. It also stems from the  national governments’ ability to create temporary advantages in GVCs, resulting from the definition of specific strategies and the “joint” approach of private companies.

This is currently Italy’s productive point.

 To bring some of Italy’s big national champions into the  geopolitical rather than economic oligopoly of the global companies leading the main Global Value Chains, so as to later organize the “voluntary” mechanisms that permit the hegemony of Italian SMEs in the various sectoral markets.

Recently my friend Paolo Savona has spoken about the “return of the  State as master”, but the future will enable us to have only two real forms of control of global value chains: either with a top-down approach, by producing universal enterprises that lead the chains, or with a bottom-up approach, by organizing the groups of SMEs that prevail – with public and private support – over their competitors in the division created by GVCs.

 However, all the latest statistical analyses show us that in the Euro area countries there have been massive and now excessive share transfers of State entities, as well as liberalisations, often of goods and services which are – even in the free-trade and liberal economic tradition – “natural monopolies”, but with a significant slowdown in share transfers and divestments, which in Italy, France and Germany started as early as the early 2000s.

Furthermore, Ronald Reagan – the politician epitomizing the free-trade and liberal revival – had not at all cut public spending in general, but had cut the traditional spending for civilian Welfare, with a view to favouring his specific military Welfare.

  A deficit military spending, which had no immediate inflationary repercussions, but rather acted as a technological stimulus for innovation, also in civilian enterprises.

Without “inclusive institutions”, however, i.e. without stable public organizations enabling sufficient segments of the population to have access to some wealth, all modern States tend to be relegated to be failed States, thus becoming easy prey for their structural and global geoeconomic opponents – and even at the lowest possible cost.

 This is what – inter alia – Sovereign Funds are for.

 In fact, they ensure the public or semi-public ownership of the enterprises that a State and a society choose – moment by moment – to guide their economic and social future in the medium-long term.

Hence the Sovereign Funds must be protected from the raids of possible and real competitors. Raids are continuous, while growth projects are temporary.

It should be recalled that in Gilpin’s opinion, the “aim of economic activities is to provide benefits to consumers, not to strengthen the State security”.

 But the State security is also a primary asset, which allows to quickly eliminate adverse geoeconomic actions and hence avoid  the immediate colonization of the development potential of a State and of a society.

Edward Luttwakhas also rigthly said that any economic globalization is always strategically dangerous, since it inevitably leads to what he calls “paroxysmal competition”, which is an inevitable feature of turbo-capitalism: a very rapid increase in the size and speed of trade, always combined with post-Cold War globalization, which does not accept any geographical limit to its expansion.

 If turbo-capitalism stops, it immediately melts away under the sun of value realization.

The excessive trade speed mimics its actual productivity and the size of trade sometimes masks its very low value which, however, is maintained thanks to excessive speed, which does not allow the rational and technical assessment of risks.

Hence, against the Hobbesian state of bellum omnium contra omnes typical of turbo-capitalism, which usually does not sufficiently invest in product or process innovation, we need to  think of two solutions, called the State of Economic Intelligence or the Geoeconomic State.

 Paolo Savona and Carlo Jean have spoken of the ever-increasing role of economic intelligence, which should become the axis of every modern State’s economic, financial and productive choices.

 Without Sovereign Funds, however, there is no economic intelligence.

Hence we need to firmly keep a sector, at least one, which is comparatively very advanced,  but above all export-led, and which is also protected with all the non-tariff mechanisms that are now commonly used in everyday economic warfare.

This is the reason why, for at least five years all the major Western countries have been rethinking their old deindustrialization and delocalization policies, which often deprive societies and States of the necessary systems for controlling global, financial and productive flows. Not to mention the fiscal deprivation and over-costs for maintaining structural unemployment.

In the evolution of the most recent international trade theory, we have even gone so far as to develop a Strategic Trade Theory, a model underlining the companies’ and State’s ability to improve the trade balance by working strategically -i.e. in the medium-long term – in imperfect global markets.

The oligopolistic markets are always those where leading products or services are developed, usually with public investment in Research and Development.

 This is the true nature of the Keynesian model: the State funds  what is not yet profitable, but the private sector deals mainly with “mature” or growing companies, which have already found their market.

 Hence we also need the theory of the Innovating State, i.e. the Entrepreneurial State, recently developed by Mariana Mazzuccato.

 The State imagined by Mazzuccato explores the whole scenario of business risk, thus creating above all new markets. In particular, the State creates the markets in which we need to have strong investment in situations of maximum uncertainty, thus acting as a risk taker and hence later as a market shaper.

 The “Administrative State” is a public administration “serving” private individuals, but the Entrepreneurial-Innovating State is the one that does not make the unemployed people dig the classic Keynesian holes, in the inevitable periods of production contraction, which is above all – Marxistically – tendential over-production.

 But, if anything, the Entrepreneurial-Innovating State invests in new high-quality technologies, which create original markets where, in fact, the Entrepreneurial State controls the future oligopoly. Another role of Sovereign Funds.

Technically, however, the Funds are investment funds which manage financial asset portfolios denominated in foreign currencies, according to the global rules of what we currently call the grey economy.

In theory, the Funds are divided between those which invest resources coming from raw materials or oil and gas (SWF Commodity) and all the others which, instead, invest surpluses coming from the currency surpluses of the trade balances.

 This is clearly our case.

 According to the “Santiago Principles”, a code for Sovereign Funds developed based on the International Monetary Fund’s indications, the Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) are “special purpose” investment funds owned by national governments.

 Therefore, SWFs have five primary characteristics: a) they are always held by a Sovereign State; b) they make investment in foreign currency; c) they carry out their activities over a long term, with low indebtedness and without withdrawals or distribution of profit to participants; d) their accounting is strictly separate from that of Central Banks and Finance Ministries; e) they carry out research for investment with returns above the risk-free rate.

 The first real Sovereign Funds were the Kuwait Investment Authority, created in 1953, to obviously invest the capital originating from the extraction and sale of local oil, as well as the old Revenue Equalization Reverse Fund, set up by the British administration of the then colony of the Gilbert Islands, the current Republic of Kiribati, to invest the surplus from the sale of phosphates.

 The secret agreement between Kissinger and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, after the Yom Kippur war, later channelled the extraordinary surpluses stemming from the very significant increase in the OPEC oil barrel price into US government bonds. Hence petrodollars were created.

 In the phase following the booming prices of some fundamental raw materials when, in fact, oil prices plunged, namely in the 1980s, the Sovereign Funds became the primary instrument for diversifying investment and hence for the financial stability of the countries producing raw materials (or commercial surpluses) which had already adopted them.

From then until 2005, the Sovereign Funds became the main instrument, for Asian countries in particular, to accumulate and use the foreign currency reserves arriving in the Asian countries which were more export-led and more linked to the US dollar cycle.

 To avoid having to resort to the often dangerous therapies of the International Monetary Fund, especially when the global reference currency fell, the top Asian export-led countries combined their industrial expansion policies with specific exchange rate policies, which tended to accumulate very large foreign currency funds.

 Obviously that happened only to avoid the manipulation of  currency markets in a condition of objective weakness created by an exclusively export-oriented economy – with exports to countries having a very strong currency.

In 1978 the SWF Temasek, the “historic” Singapore investment fund, came up with the idea of using Sovereign Funds for that purpose.

Temasek invested its considerable surpluses in the acquisition of companies and financial holdings in the Asian area directly bordering on Singapore, thus making the city-State – which was also the first model for Deng Xiaping’s Four Modernizations –  overcome its structural limits, thus protecting it from enemy and adverse operations on its exchange rates and on its productive system.

 Finally, from the beginning of the great subprime crisis, the Funds have spread mainly in the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and also in some “First World” countries, especially to acquire minority shareholdings or to carry out hostile takeover operations towards competitors or potential penetrators of their national markets, possibly even with dumping actions –  and it would not be the first time.

 In 2020 SWFs are supposed to reach, worldwide, an amount of managed assets of approximately 15 trillion US dollars.

 75% of the capital managed by the Funds is currently concentrated on the top 10 operators. Obviously the SWF market is highly oligopolistic and the top 10 operators are now all Middle East or Asian entities.

The history of modern European Sovereign Funds began with  Sarkozy’s Presidency in France.

As early as 2008, the French centre-right leader set up the Fond Strategiqued’ Investissement (Strategic Investment Fund), based on two already existing financial structures, namely the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations(the State Bank handling official deposits, which is the equivalent of the prominent Italian investment bank known as Cassa Depositi e Prestiti) and the Fond de Réserve pour les Retraites(Pension Reserve Fund), with capitalisations – at the time – of 80 and 33.8 billion Euros respectively.

However, 51% of the new French Sovereign Fund was owned by the Caisse des Dépôts and the remaining 49% by the Agence des Participations d’État (Government Shareholding Agency).

 The aim of the Fund created by Sarkozy was to invest mainly in French and foreign small and medium-sized enterprises, characterized by strong growth but having no longer access to standard market financing (although we do not know why).

The French Fund also set in when the company was overtly  threatened by a hostile takeover, or any acquisition, by foreign companies.

 The French Fund could also intervene directly in the capital of innovative industries.

 As early as 2008, however, the Italian intelligence Services have focused on the very strong need to protect the national know-how, considering that the operational plans of other Sovereign Funds interested in Italy could be useful for acquiring specific technologies.

 It has already happened: in the machine tools, agri-food,  specialized pharmaceutics and fine mechanics sectors, Italy’s top large SMEs have already been acquired by French, German and Chinese companies.

In their report to Parliament in 2010, the Italian intelligence Services already spoke of a “liquidity threat” to Italy’s companies.

The foreign private equity funds, in fact, are mainly targeted to banking, biotechnology, energy, entertainment and even online gaming companies.

Currently, however, the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti has two instruments to support companies, especially the technologically advanced ones: the Italian Strategic Fund – now CDP Private Equity – and the Italian Investment Fund.

The latter was launched in 2010, with the collaboration of some private banks, and – as usual – it is targeted primarily to small and medium-sized enterprises.

It has two operating structures: the Venture Capital Fund for innovative start-ups and the Minibond Fund, which supports the bond issues of small and medium-sized enterprises.

 The Italian Strategic Fund – 90% of which is held by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti(CDP) and the remaining 10% by FINTECNA, which is in any case fully owned by CDP – was launched in 2011 with a capital of 4.4 billion Euros and, as already mentioned, rose to 7 billion Euros.

However, why setting limits?

The Italian Strategic Fund was born with a negative experience to be made good, considering that those were the years of the takeovers for Parmalat, which had just been redressed financially, and for Bulgari, not to mention the future and possible “friendly” sales – well hyped by the Italian media- of Alitalia and Edison.

 The Italian Strategic Fund dealt mainly with medium-large companies having “significant national interest”, while, from the beginning, it created strong ties with Qatar Holding, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority and the Korea Investment Corporation.

 Moreover, in 2012 the Italian Strategic Fund signed an agreement with Qatar Holding LLC for the creation of a joint venture, called IQ Made in Italy Venture, to invest in the typical Made in Italy companies.

 The idea, which has not yet fully materialized, was to create a “luxury district”.

 The Maastricht restrictions on the so-called “State aid” always make it difficult for the Italian Strategic Fund to operate. It would possibly need an arm abroad, capable of operating on our companies without EU constraints. It would also be necessary to deem it legitimate for the Italian Strategic Fund to invest in companies of significant national interest, but regardless of the average return on the capital invested in the medium term.

 Therefore, unlike the old twentieth century economic statism, the Italian Strategic Fund invests in healthy companies and it plays -quietly and without nervousness – the role of minority shareholder. It also follows the private criteria of investment profitability and efficiency and does not follow the natural distortions, often originated by public entities, but also by powerful private entities, to manipulate production formulas and intermediate markets.

 Hence rethinking and expanding the Fund’s operations, or possibly creating specific areas of intervention for the Fund,  would be an excellent evolution of the fundamental policy lines on which the Italian Strategic Fund was conceived.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Economy

The Question Of Prosperity

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Galloping economic woes, prejudice, injustice, poverty, low literacy rate, gender disparity and women rights, deteriorating health system, corruption, nepotism, terrorism, political instability, insecure property rights, looming energy crisis and various other similar hindrances constrain any state or country to be retrograded. Here questions arise that how do these obstacles take place? How do they affect the prosperity of any country? No history, geography, or culture spawns them. Simply the answer is institutions that a country possesses.

Institutions ramify into two types: inclusive and extractive. Inclusive political institutions make power broadly distributed in country or state and constrain its arbitrary exercise. Such political institutions also make it harder for others to usurp rights and undermine the cornerstone of inclusive institutions, which create inclusive economic institutions that feature secure property rights, an unbiased system of law, and a provision of public services that provide a level playing field in which people can exchange and contract; it also permits the entry of new businesses and allow people to choose their career. On the contrary, extractive political institutions accord clout in hands of few narrow elite and they have few constrains to exert their clout and engineer extractive economic institutions that can specifically benefit few people of the ruling elite or few people in the country.

Inclusive institutions are proportional to the prosperity and social and economic development. Multifarious countries in the world are great examples of this. Taking North and South Korea; both countries garnered their sovereignty in same year 1945, but they adopted different ways to govern the countries. North Korea under the stewardship of Kim Il-sung established dictatorship by 1947, and rolled out a rigid form of centrally planned economy as part of the so-called Juche system; private property was outlawed, markets were banned, and freedoms were curtailed not only in marketplace but also in every sphere of North Korea’s lives- besides those who used to be part of the very small ruling elite around Kim Il-sung and later his son and his successor Kim Jong-Il. Contrariwise, South Korea was led and its preliminary politico-economic institutions were orchestrated by the Harvard and Princeton-educated. Staunchly anticommunist Rhee and his successor General Park Chung-Hee secured their places in history as authoritarian presidents, but both governed a market economy where private property was recognised. After 1961, Park effectively taken measures that caused the state behind rapid economic growth; he established inclusive institutions which encouraged investment and trade. South Korean politicians prioritised to invest in most crucial segment of advancement that is education. South Korean companies were quick to take advantage of educated population; the policies encouraged investment and industrialisation, exports and the transfer of technology. South Korea quickly became a “Miracle Economy” and one of the most rapidly growing nations of the world. Just in fifty years there was conspicuous distinction between both countries not because of their culture, geography, or history but only due to institutions both countries had adopted.

Moreover, another model to gauge role of institutions in prosperity is comparison of Nogales of US and Mexico. US Nogales earn handsome annual income; they are highly educated; they possess up to the mark health system with high life expectancy by global standards; they are facilitated with better infrastructure, low crime rate, privilege to vote and safety of life. By contrast, the Mexican Nogales earn one-third of annual income of US Nogales; they have low literacy rate, high rate of infant mortality; they have roads in bad condition, law and order in worse condition, high crime rate and corruption. Here also the institutions formed by the Nogales of both countries are main reason for the differences in economic prosperity on the two sides of the border.

Similarly, Pakistan tackles with issues of institutions. Mostly, pro-colonial countries are predominantly inheritors of unco extractive politico-economic institutions, and colonialism is perhaps germane to Pakistan’s tailoring of institutions. Regretfully, Pakistan is inherited with colossally extractive institutions at birth. The new elite, comprising civilian-military complex and handful aristocrats, has managed to prolong colonial-era institutional legacy, which has led Pakistan to political instability, consequently, political instability begot inadequacy of incentives which are proportional to retro gradation of the country.

Additionally, a recent research of Economic Freedom of the World (WEF) by Fraser Institute depicts that the countries with inclusive institutions and most economic freedom are more developed and prosperous than the least economic free countries; countries were divided into four groups. Comparing most free quartile and least free quartile of the countries, the research portrayed that most free quartile earns even nine times more than least free quartile; most free quartile has two times more political and civil rights than least free quartile; most free quartile owes three times less gender disparity than least free quartile; life expectancy tops at 79. 40 years in most free quartile, whereas number stands at 65.20 in least free quartile. To conclude this, the economic freedom is sine quo non for any country to be prosperous, and economic freedom comes from inclusive institutions. Unfortunately, Pakistan has managed to get place in least free quartile.

In a nutshell, the institutions play pivotal role in prosperity and advancement, and are game changer for any country. Thereby, our current government should focus on institutions rather than other issues, so that Pakistan can shine among the world’s better economies. For accomplishing this highly necessary task government should take conducive measures right now.

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Taxing The Super-Rich To Help The Poor

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What was traditional became law in 1941 when Thanksgiving was designated as the fourth Thursday in November.  Large turkeys, plenty of trimmings and family gatherings became the norm. . . that is until this year of the self-isolated holiday.  Small turkeys disappeared fast leaving masses of 20 lb birds and presumably more leftovers and more waste.  Yes, w e belong to the lucky 13.5 percent in this world through an accident of birth.

Half of the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 per day.  Of these, three quarters of a billion are in extreme poverty, classified as less than $1.90 per day.  Covid 19 has swelled these numbers by 114 million and the situation is dire.  Worst affected by poverty are the day laborers i.e. informal workers without a regular job.  Moreover, the ILO (International Labor Organization) estimates 200 million job losses from Covid.  It also notes that the average income of informal workers in places like Ethiopia, Haiti, and Malawi has already fallen by 82 percent. 

The US is not immune.  Adjusting for purchasing power the US Census Bureau classifies 11.1 percent of the population as poor with Covid exacerbating the situation.  Forty seven million have to rely on food banks including 16 million children.  Hardly surprising then that the US has the highest child mortality rate among the 20 OECD countries (major economies) as reported by the U.S. Health Affairs journal.  And life expectancy has shrunk by three years, affirms the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Even in Europe with its social net and social conscience, Covid 19 is estimated to increase poverty by about half if the pandemic lasts until the summer of 2021.  Italy alone, forecasts Caritas Italiana, will have a million more children living in poverty. 

In April of this year UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) warned that at least $2.5 billion was needed to lessen the impact of the impending crisis within the narrow purview of their remit. 

So where is the money to come from?  If taxing the rich is unlikely to pass in most legislatures for the most obvious of reasons — they paid for them to be there — how about taxing only the super-rich, the storied 1 percent?

The wealth of the billionaire class has surged.  While 45.5 million filed for unemployment in just three months, the U.S. added 29 more billionaires and the wealth of the billionaire class surged nearly 20 percent or $584 billion, from $2.948 to $3.531 trillion, during the same period.  Just the top five billionaires, namely, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet and Larry Ellison increased their wealth by a whopping $101.7 billion between March 18 and June 17 of this year.  Bezos and Zuckerberg alone made $76 billion or almost three-quarters.  To be fair one has to point out that the stock market took a sudden dip in March from which it recovered to new highs. 

It’s shocking that just 10 percent of their $584 billion gain would have bailed out their compatriots classified as poor over the same period.  Is it time for a tax on the super rich?  Warren Buffett has often said that he needs to be taxed more.  The fact is a small extra tax would not make an iota of difference in their lives but would help out millions of the poor and also the economy because the latter are much more likely than the rich to spend the money.  

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International Conflicts from the View of Trade Expectations Theory

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Does economic interdependence between great powers have a significant effect on the probability of war between them? This once seemingly impossible question has become extremely realistic and urgent in the current tide of anti-globalization.

In fact, it is not the first time that free trade has been terminated, as all the great powers in the Western world had abandoned the principle of free trade at one point, such as Germany in 1879, France and Britain in 1881, and the United States as early as the 1860s during the Civil War. Global trade frictions and conflicts have developed from competing for raw materials, energy, and investment to today’s competition for market space (see Chan Kung’s “Spatial Determinism” for details).

There are two views on the relationship between economic interdependence and war. Liberals assert that with commercial ties, trade and investment flows can raise the opportunity cost of going to war and thereby providing a large material incentive to avoid war. Realists claim that commercial ties make states vulnerable to cutoffs, which can devastate an economy that has reoriented itself to rely on critical markets and goods from abroad, and thereby prompt leaders to go to war.

American scholar Dale C. Copeland believes that an additional causal variable, i.e., a state’s expectations of the future trade and investment environment should be introduced to determine whether the liberal prediction or realist prediction would prevail. When a dependent state has positive expectations about this future environment, it is more likely to see all the benefits of continuing the current peace and all the costs of turning to war. Economic interdependence would then be a force for peace. Yet if a dependent state has negative expectations about the future economic environment, i.e., seeing itself being cut off from access to foreign trade and investment, or believing that other states will soon cut it off, then the realist logic will kick in. Such a state would tend to believe that without access to the vital raw materials, investments, and export markets needed for its economic health, its economy will start to fall relative to other less vulnerable actors. If this economic decline is anticipated to be severe, the leaders of the dependent state would then begin to view war as the rational option, the lesser of two evils. Such leaders would consider it is better to fight that being forced to submission.

This argument is similar to the “preventive wars” in the field of international political economy, and Dale C. Copeland calls it the “trade expectations theory”. Copeland believes that in the situation where there are different great powers, the combination of economic interdependence along with expectations of future trade and investment was a critical driving force shaping the probability of war and conflict between these powers.

Several historical examples from the twentieth century are clear prove of this. Japan’s attacks on Russia in 1904 and the United States in 1941 were intimately related to Japanese fears of future access to the raw materials and trade of the East Asian region. In the first case, Japan witnessed Russia’s steady penetration into economically valuable areas of Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula. After repeated and invariably unsuccessful efforts to convince Russia to pull back, Tokyo realized that only preventive war would mitigate Japan’s long-term economic and military concerns. The closed economic policies of the great powers after 1929 had a devastating impact on Japan’s economy and Japanese views of the future trade environment. Tokyo’s efforts to consolidate its own economic sphere in Manchuria and northern China, spurred by its decades-long worry about Russian growth in the Far East, led to conflicts with the Soviet and Nationalist Chinese governments. When the United States entered the fray after 1938 and began a series of damaging economic embargoes, Japanese expectations of future trade fell even further, prompting a desperate effort to acquire access to oil and raw materials in Southeast Asia. The ultimate result was the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

During the forty-five-year Cold War struggle after World War II, there was a low level of economic dependence between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the “trade expectations theory” seemed unable to explain the geopolitical rivalry between the two great powers. Obviously, economic relations between states do not explain all the problems of geopolitics, which involves a variety of other issues (e.g., ideological rivalry, mutual military threats, etc.). However, the impact of economic relations can be seen even during the Cold War. In the late 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower’s unwillingness to relax stringent economic restrictions alienated Nikita Khrushchev and contributed to the extreme tensions of the 1960–1962 period. But in the early 1970s and again in the late 1980s, Washington was more willing to commit itself to higher future trade with the Soviets. This proved critical to achieving an initial détente period and then an end to the Cold War altogether.

In the current tide of anti-globalization, it seems that the phenomenon of “trade expectations theory” can also be seen. The Trump administration, following the principle of “America First”, believes that the major trading partners of the United States have taken advantage of the United States through trade, making the economic interests of the United States damaged, and China has caused the greatest economic damage to the United States. As a result, the United States has adopted a series of crackdowns and sanctions on its major trading partners, including China. The modern world is less prone to war between major powers, but instead manifests in more diverse non-war forms, i.e., trade sanctions, technological sanctions and blockades, financial sanctions, diplomatic recriminations, and geopolitical repression. In the view of researchers at ANBOUND, this overall deterioration in geopolitical relations, triggered by economic ties, is merely an alternative to the “trade-security” model of war. If the geopolitical friction intensifies further and the threshold of a certain aspect is breached, a war of some kind is not out of the question.

The view of defensive realism is that national leaders, aware that their actions can lead to a vicious cycle of hostility, are justified in maintaining their current reputation for neutrality, prudent territorial policies, constant trade with other countries, and a willingness to embrace common international rules in a relatively open attitude. This view helps to create a pattern in which great powers tend to coexist for a long time without serious conflict or war. However, if national leaders take the view of aggressive realism, that in a leaderless world, great powers must always worry about what other nations will do in the future, and prepare for the worst, then they must maximize their power. The likelihood of violent conflict or even war between the great powers would then increase.

How to avoid security conflicts between great powers over trade issues? Some scholars have argued that it depends on the rationality of the national decision-makers, as well as the objective judgment on the strength and determination of both sides in the conflict. Rational actors have an incentive to reach agreements that prevent war from inflicting damage on each other, so that the situation for war does not arise and thereby improving the circumstances of both sides. In the event that if an actor do not understand the true balance of power and the determination of the other side, or do not trust the other side to keep the promises made in the agreement, war may occur.

Final analysis conclusion:

After World War II, the world as a whole has been largely at peace for 75 years (meaning that there was no major war involving a large number of countries). The current tide of anti-globalization and increasing geopolitical frictions is shaping up to be the most far-reaching and influential period of global trade and geopolitical turmoil since the end of the Cold War. “Trade expectations theory” provides an explanation for the current global conflicts, as well as an idea for countries to make rational decisions and mitigate international conflicts.

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