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Pakistan’s appeal for national-debt write-off

Amjed Jaaved

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In an interview with Associated Press, our prime minister called upon world community to write off debt burden of poor countries so as to help them cope with COVID19 epidemic (Dawn March 17, 2010).

The total debt liabilities of the country amount to Rs19, 299.2 billion (as of March 2015). Every Pakistani now owes a debt of about Rs101, 338 as compared with Rs.90, 772 in 2013, Rs80, 894 in 2012 and Rs37, 170 in early 2008.The debt-to-gross domestic product ratio stands at 66.4 percent, in which foreign debt is Rs. 6.4 trillion and domestic debt is Rs.12 trillion.

In dollar terms, Pakistan’s external debt soared to 95097 USD Million in the second quarter of 2018 from  91761 USD Million in the first quarter of 2018.That’s an all-time high, and well above the average of 54065.23 USD Million for the period 2002-2018. Pakistan recorded a Current Account deficit of 8.20% of its Gross Domestic Product in 2018. That’s an all-time high and well above the -2.60% average for the period  1980-2018.

Pakistan’s debt burden has a political tinge. For joining anti-Soviet-Union alliances (South-East Asian Treaty Organisation and Central Treaty Organisation), the USA rewarded Pakistan by showering grants on Pakistan. The grants evaporated into streams of low-interest loan which ballooned as Pakistan complied with forced devaluations or adopted floating exchange rate.

Soon, the donors forgot Pakistan’s contribution to break-up of the `Soviet Union’. They used coalition support funds and our debt-servicing liability as `do more’ mantra levers.

Successive Pakistan governments treated loans as freebies. They never abided by revised Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act. Nor did our State Bank warn them about the dangerous situation.

No formal application for write-off: What a pity! Whenever International Monetary Fund’s  delegations visit, Pakistan’s representatives keep mum about politically-motivated odious nature of our debt burden. They lack nerve to tell them point-blank Pakistan’s non-liability to service politically-stringed debts. They government’s dilemma in Pakistan is that defence and anti-terrorism outlays plus debt-service charges leave little in national kitty for welfare. Solution lies in debt forgiveness by donors (James K. Boyce and Madakene O’Donnell (eds.), Peace and the Public Purse.2008. New Delhi. Viva Books, p. 251).

Benefits of Write-Off: Debt forgiveness (or relief) helps stabilise weak democracies, though corrupt, despotic and incompetent.  Research shows that debt relief promotes economic growth and boosts foreign investment. Sachs (1989) inferred that debt service costs discourage domestic and foreign investment.  Kanbur (2000), also, concluded that debt is a drag on private investment.

In fact, economists have questioned justification of paying debts given to prop up a client regime congenial to a `master’ country.  They hold that a nation is not obliged to pay such `odious debts’ (a personal liability) showered upon a praetorian individual (p. 252 ibid.). Legally also, any liability financial or quasi-nonfinancial, contracted under duress, is null and void.

Apparently, all Pakistani debts are odious as they were thrust upon praetorian regimes to bring them within anti-Communist (SEATO, SEATO) or anti-`terrorist’ fold.  To avoid embarrassing unilateral refusal of a country to repay odious debts, UN should declare which portion of debts is `odious’ (Jayachandaran and Kremer, 2004). Alternatively, the USA should itself write off our `bad’ debts.

Sovereignty compromised: People barter away some of their naturally-derived freedom with sovereign ruler to get security and welfare (Thomas Hobbes, John Locke et. al.).  When a despot fails to deliver the goods, the contract stands broken, and the people have a right to overthrow him. Thomas Jefferson (North American colonies) enshrined this social contract in the 1776 Declaration of Independence: ` when a long train of Abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a Design  to reduce them under absolute Despotism it is their Right, it is their Duty to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their Security’.

But, Pakistani people are too passive to overthrow their despotic unpopular governments.

The successive governments did nothing by way of welfare for the people. They could not even evolve a universal healthcare system akin to Thailand’s (2002).

The government’s dilemma in Pakistan is that defence and anti-terrorism outlays (26 per cent) plus debt-service charges leave little in national kitty for welfare.

A discussion was held at a seminar jointly organised by the Institute for Social and Economic Justice (ISEJ) and the Islamic Relief Pakistan under the campaign ‘Breaking the Chains of Debt’, at Forman Christian College. The crux of discussion was 47 per cent of whatever the government generates in revenue goes to pay off debt against 44 per cent in the previous year. Ideally, this ratio should be less than 30% to allocate more resources to social and poverty-related expenditures.

Speaking on the occasion, ISEJ Executive Director Abdul Khaliq said the debt situation was alarming and the government must review its reckless borrowing behaviour. We must demand an audit of the public debt,” he said. “All new loan contracts should be subjected to a debate in parliament and its approval.”

The government must stop reckless international borrowing and minimise reliance on foreign debt in the future and take measures to get the illegitimate loans cancelled, he said.

Khaliq emphasised the need for synergising efforts for a debt-free Pakistan and making the people of Pakistan the real drivers of the economy.

Three time prime minister Nawaz Sharif during his election campaign made tall claims that on assuming power he will get rid of the ‘cancer of debts’ and promised to break the ‘begging bowl’, however, there is little evidence of measures towards freedom from debt, said political economist Dr Qais Aslam.

The present Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf government proved no different from its predecessors and started knocking on the doors of international lenders even more vigorously, he added.

In a country where 60% of the population lives below the poverty line and 58% faces food insecurity, this additional burden means more miseries for the generations to come.

Speakers further said the impact of mounting debt burden on the people is horrific. Fiscal space for social spending has drastically squeezed. Pakistan spends just 2 to 2.6% of its Gross Domestic Product on education and health respectively, making it the lowest in South Asia.

International Monetary Fund’s assessment (Express TribuneMarch 16, 2018):

In its post-programme monitoring report, the IMF assessed risks to Pakistan’s economic outlook had increased. Despite changing goalposts twice, Pakistan’s public debt remained higher than the limit prescribed in the revised Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act.

The policy of building foreign currency reserves through expensive loans and ignoring the export performance haunted the policymakers.

The IMF said the elevated current account deficit and rising external debt servicing, in part driven by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)-related outflows, were expected to lead to higher external financing needs.

External financing would surge to around $27 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018-19 (FY19) and would go up to $45 billion by FY23.

At that time, Pakistan’s external financing needs will be equal to 10% of the national output, which is a dangerous level. “Risks to public debt sustainability have increased since the completion of the EFF (Extended Fund Facility) programme. Public and publicly-guaranteed debt is expected to remain elevated at 68% of GDP by FY23.” Gross fiscal financing needs will likely exceed 30% of GDP from 2018-19 onwards, in part reflecting increased debt service obligations.

However, the more alarming part is the growing challenges to arranging foreign loans. It said Pakistan had so far remained successful in contracting external borrowing that softened the impact of rising external imbalances on foreign exchange reserves.

The IMF’s projections showed a bleak path for the next five years. Public and publicly-guaranteed debt is projected to remain close to 70% of GDP by 2023 under the baseline scenario.

In the absence of strong consolidation measures, the fiscal deficit is expected to remain close to 6% of GDP in the medium term, resulting in elevated debt levels.

Adverse shocks, notably to economic growth and the primary balance, could lead to public debt ratios rising well above 70%, said the IMF.

Contingent liabilities from restructuring of loss-making public sector enterprises represent additional fiscal risks. High gross financing needs may also pose potential rollover risks.

The IMF said high levels of public debt and gross financing needs presented significant fiscal risks and needed to be addressed in a timely fashion through fiscal tightening to improve debt sustainability.

Financial sovereignty threatened:  Some people question is Pakistan really a sovereign state? The question is based on premise that government has ceded control of the economy to foreign entities. Both the finance minister and the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan are career officers of respectively the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Is the primary loyalty of these officers to their Washington-based institutions or to their country of origin? And, should we be outsourcing existential financial decisions to people with possibly divided loyalty?

IMF’s changed role: The IMF and the World Bank are products of the Bretton Woods conference of 1944. Both organizations made good sense in the tattered world economy of the post-War period. The World Bank set about financing the rebuilding of Europe; while the primary purpose of the IMF was to promote international trade, which had collapsed during the war. The IMF’s role was to assist member nations to maintain stable exchange rates by providing short-term credit to support their currencies.

However, the `dinosaurs’ changed their roles. Over time fixed exchange rates gave way to floating rates, multiplying debt burden of recipients manifold.  Markets replaced governments as the primary arbiters of the value of national currencies.

The arrangement works as follows: A poor country, due generally to mismanagement and corruption, finds itself in dire need of hard currency. Commercial lenders are unwilling to commit their funds without adequate safeguards. Enter the IMF. It offers to lend some of its own money, provided that the host government agrees to a set of economic ‘reforms’. These understandably seek to enhance the borrower’s ability to repay the money loaned. When a deal is struck, the IMF disburses its own funds. At the same time commercial lenders, now reassured that the borrower can repay, step in with additional funds.

Typically, the IMF’s own funds constitute only a small proportion of the borrower’s total debt. Commercial lenders provide the rest. Yet the IMF’s participation is crucial. If it does not ‘certify’ a country by its participation then that country effectively gets cut off from all other sources of credit.

The question which recipients need to brood over is: Does the IMF serve their national interests? The IMF has a single overriding objective. This is to enhance the borrower’s ability to service its debts. It does not care a fig for recipients’ policies about poverty alleviation, price stability, employment, universal access to health care and education, and affordable rates for basic services.

Hypothetical example of debt black hole: Our external debt is $100 billion. Let’s assume that the average applicable yearly interest rate is five percent and that we decide to pay it back in equal annual installments over a period of 20 years. We would need to pay annual installments of $8 billion per year for a total payback over the 20 year period of $160 billion. Of which $60 billion would be interest and the balance repayment of principal.

We run a trade deficit of $20 billion a year. If we had a trade surplus we could theoretically have had the ability to pay back some of our debt. But, with shattered industry, teetered infrastructure, and COVID19 hangover, we can’t. So the only way to find the $8 billion per year to pay back our existing loans is to take new loans. We thus fall in the financial equivalent of a black hole.

Light at end of the `Hole’: While light cannot escape a black hole, we can extricate ourselves from this crisis. Pakistan needs to make the most of its strategic advantages. If we did not get out loans written off as quid pro quo for Soviet collapse in Afghanistan, we should better negotiate US exit now. We should have an answer if the US asks, by way of quid pro quo, for putting permissive action links on our nuclear bombs. If Pakistanis to be denuclearized than its binary India too should be.

Pakistan government should take prime minister lead further. It should hold negotiations with lenders that are commercial banks and the international finance agencies. We should aim at repudiation of about 50 percent of debt. This should be in addition to interest rate waivers, revisions and extended terms.

Simultaneously, Pakistan should dust off burden of debt models in textbooks. Debts should be so utilised as to be able to pay off interest and principal over agreed time span.

Bad debts: Pakistani debts qualify for write-off as bad debts. Why should poor Pakistanis, lacking basic needs, pay them?

World Bank President David Malpass (Express Tribune February 12, 2020) portrayed a bleak situation of loaning policies worldwide. Like a pot calling kettle black, he chided other development banks for lending too quickly to heavily indebted countries, saying some were helping worsen already-challenging debt situations. Addressing a World Bank-International Monetary Fund (IMF) debt forum, he said Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development were contributing to debt problems.

He said the ADB was “pushing billions of dollars” into a fiscally challenging situation in Pakistan.   African Development Bank was doing the same in Nigeria and South

Africa. Pakistan was unlikely to meet debt reduction targets. The Manila-based development lender in December approved $1.3 billion in loans for Pakistan, including $1 billion for immediate budget support to shore up the countries

Public finances and $300 million to help reform the country’s energy sector.

The loans came as the country is struggling with billions of dollars in debt to China

from the Belt and Road infrastructure projects, which pushed Pakistan to turn to the IMF for a $6-billion loan programme in 2019.

Malpass said there needed to be more coordination among international financial institutions to coordinate lending and maintain high standards of transparency. “And so we have a very real problem of the IFIs themselves adding to the debt burden and there’s pressure then I think on the IMF to sort through it and look at the best interest for the country,” he stated.

Inference: If Pakistan wants to get its loans written off, it should do more than indulge in rhetoric. `Negotiation’ is a subject taught in all universities as a business course. Pakistan should learn to argue its case and decipher donors’ BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement    

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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Morocco’s Economy: COVID-19 Epidemic made a new development model

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Considering the financial dilemma of 2008, the outbreaks of the Arab political spring that brush off the Arab society and extend to the rest of the globe, and the trade war conflicts between the United States and China that caused bilateral impasse negatively influenced on the entire world economy, and after that President Trump quit from all collective and bilateral international agreements That concern free trade cooperation and environmental issues, believing that it will be favored by the world decision, militarily and economically, under the so-called of America’s interest first…

Additionally, to the Brexit scenario, which described the political victory of Trump’s world trends and tendency, before Britain found itself alone outside the European Union in the face of the Corona epidemic, as if it had chosen the bad timing of disunion, all circumstances calling the beginning of the end of globalization announced by the industrial world superpowers, which we have claimed to be an industry for an open market to all nations, and it will bring gains and profits for the wealthy people, and create jobs for the poor. Thus, this globalization is based on unreal beliefs that have become a character for all societies of the globe; to find out in the last tick that this market of globalization has made only for the wealthy and the powerful states, they gain large profits and opportunities, while poor states only get debts and more loans.

In sense of these events and through them, globalization has improved from the exchange of interests and good benefits to the globalization of imposing programmed market strategy and originally determined interests to serve global powers on the rest of the world, which made many third world states struggle to get out of the logic of globalization based on money and the idea of taking profits, so these states tried to raise its financial and commerce status in the world sphere by pointing out the dissatisfaction with the world market and trading policies based on the logic of wealthy states benefit from easy trading policies unless undeveloped countries obliged to stick on world trading and market policies due to getting fewer outcomes.

Yet, as the most significant core in the emerging epidemic of the Coronavirus pandemic is that it created definitely boundaries for stunning globalization that was promoted by the superpowers of the global economy and monetary; the fall of the happy globalization spread by huge manufactured and international firms passed through worldwide advertising links to enlarge consumption, it is the end of the recommendations of global financial organizations; and the end of world integration that glorifies the individual outside the group, the division of society as a market for shopping and consumption, and encourages the entertainment industry at the expense of education, health development and social life, and delusions and promises of social prosperity are given among non-western societies if they relinquish their civic and morality, from those of the purity on which it is based in defense of itself, or joined in a rush through the new cultural pattern that it declared, social progress and freedom for all, and also towards unreal concepts of modernity that serves the interests of global economies and enhance human economic activity.

Here is self-evident to mention that globalization has become evident to everyone that the end of it is on the edge, not because of its interactions between people or the development of advanced technology but it’s a lack of new alternatives and answers that facilitate credible solutions to the third world economies, and also make their economy more profitable. It is true that globalization has been so keen on promoting its economic values of shared interests and uphold world economic interactions over the globe. For instance, recently globalization in the eyes of the Undeveloped countries is the end of rights of future generations in term of looting their Natural resources, revealing the reality that they carry nothing but progress for egress unexpected issues, like environmental imbalances in a catastrophic escalation, the deficiency of energy deepens the disparities between non industrialized countries, more importantly, the inability of public policies to make clear and effective decisions in order to centralize the financial institutions and businesses from their domination of the national decision, and the devotion of social inequality it jeopardizes the integration of democratic societies with the rise of irrational rhetoric discourses and as a pointless and illogical state. Though, All these facts indicate the limited development approach that globalization brought today.

In view of the Moroccan domestic opinion, the emergence of this Corona epidemic was accompanied by a public debate that was taking place among all Moroccans about the development model and social pattern, and it was significant that the public opinion truly expressed a deep awareness of the end of the globalization of the economy and money, and the need to quest for a national alternative made by the collective society, human intelligence and social interact with what is globally based on the basis of shared local experiences and historical data.

Therefore, we fully believe that this Corona COVID-19 outbreak that endangers our country will end no doubt and that will inevitably be defeated. Today, this pandemic make an opportunity for serious and new thinking about our political priorities, to review the economic development reform within our institutions, and reconstruct a new social inquiry that enhanced coordination between local business, national enterprises and upgrades Morocco’s economic-political structure among its community.

Obviously, Corona’s epidemic not only makes us concerned about our public health and the safety of our society, but more than that leads us to be more flexible in dealing with our current situation. Under his Majesty, the King of Morocco Mohamed VI has urged medical personnel from the military forces and public medical doctors to give health assistance and protect local individuals and asked for enhanced cooperation among local forces and the military. Yet, all Moroccan parties have taken adequate measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, including requiring the Moroccan forces to endure the responsibility to make sure of the prevention and control of the epidemic of pneumonia caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus. Overall, a very appreciative step has taken by Morocco government has diminished its counterpart in the world, which accelerates the establishment of a fund to support the poor and needy working people in the informal sectors, to show great awareness of these risks.

To sum up, In certain is that the Coronavirus is not the end of the globe, and this crisis is sure will be passed, and the world and the economy will restore its normal character after the epidemic is resolved, but its settlement is not in the hands of heads of states or governments and not in the hands of economists or financial experts, but in the hands of medical laboratories and is dependent on people’s awareness and is linked to the extent of Solidarity and cooperation between them.

The core of time is to give priority to people (his health and education) at the expense of money and economics because the economy can return to growth again, but the dead cannot return to real life. Our core not only observed the efficiency and productivity of the global economy, but also tested the purity of citizens in every state, and proven the credibility of the global societal values system, and demonstrated the need to create societies in which economic development is connected to the inquiries of social justice and balance of interests, and the meaning and role of the social and economic values system of peoples are estimated. Accordingly, the questions should be raised so far; Will the world justly escape the overwhelming effects of this pandemic coronavirus? Will the world succeed in renewing an economic and financial system that is different from the current one?.

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The COVID-19, Economic Package, UN system and Politics

Saurav Raj Pant

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Global pandemic of COVID-19 is affecting everyone. This has been described as the greatest global humanitarian crisis since WWII.  On December 31st, 2019 cases of Pneumonia from unknown cause was first reported in the WHO Country office in China. Later, WHO declared it as the Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan 30th, 2020. This COVID-19 seen initially in the Wuhan, China but travelled mostly due to the advancement of air transportation globally. All major countries at the initial outbreak of COVID-19 had applied limited approach in prevention and control of this virus. As of April 3rd 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases globally is 1016,424. Among them, 53,241 were dead and 213,140 were recovered. In this entire pandemic, Italy is the worst hit from COVID-19 and has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 in Europe. The death toll is 13,915 and infected is 115242(As of April 3rd, 2020). The US along has 245, 373 cases of COVID-19 with 6095 deaths. The intervention of the US government in curbing the COVID-19 has been dysfunctional. The US government had announced $2 Trillion Economic Stimulus bill to fight against COVID-19 that include stimulus payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage, student loan changes, different retirement account rules. Under the plan, single Americans would receive $1200, married couples would get $2400 and parents would see $500 for each child under 17. However, the many argued that such economic package came very late as the first identified case of the COVID-19 was found in the Jan 20, 2020.

In the case of Nepal, economic relief package announced on March 29th, 2020 includes a 25% discount on electricity for consumers who use more than 150 units every month and no penalty if utility bill and tax payments are not cleared till mid-April, urging tourism sector to pay salaries for March-April to employees on the terms of tourism company are allowed to use social welfare funds until business returns to normal. Also, government had urged land lord to provide one month rent relief for its tenants.

From the above case story of the US & Italy; western government has been found inefficient in curbing the impact. However, the pandemic of the COVID-19 has so far limited in the developing world.

Impact in Nepal

The outbreak of the COVID-19 has affected economy, politics and society. All major countries are using tools of lock downs, quarantine and isolation ward in the hospital for the prevention and control of this virus. Though these measures seem effective in controlling the spread of the virus but halt in the economic activities; which is predicted to be serious. The global economy expected to grow in 2020 is 2.4% down from the 2.9% projected earlier (OECD, 2020). In Nepal also, it has affected hugely on the Tourism sectors. Nepal Tourism Year 2020 was announced just one day after the COVID-19 outbreak in China.In Nepal, sectors like Hotels, Civil Aviation, Supply Chain, Labour Employment and Remittance. Occupancy rate of major star Hotel like Annapurna hotel is just has 40-45% occupancy down from 70%. Flights in Lukla, Nepal declined from 60 to 10-12 flights per day as government decided to halt trekking permits as well as International flights entering to Nepal. Due to fear of the shortage of COVID-19, people started keeping stocks of the LPG cylinder. This has put shortage of the LPG. Around 40,000 people with valid work permit are stranded in Nepal to fly to Qatar due to lock down major by Qatar. This shows, remittance in coming days will be very limited and demand will be slow in Middle East as oil prices is falling.

Contradiction

There is also high chance of expecting this virus as a normal pandemic by politics which humanity has surpassed during its course of history. The global politics sometime won’t expect any change in its structure (for e.g. change of global order) until and unless there is a mass death toll comparing to World Wars. Loss in the global economy might have possibilities to be adjusted under compromising terms. Since, the US, China, European nations including India all heavy players has been heavily affected; the global economy will have slow start after post COVID-19 years but slowly takes its grip (as we saw after 2008 financial crisis).  Other than, political economic spectrum; everyone will be forced to forget these tragedies as time passes on. Since, every citizen has to work for living and people are dire need of economic package rather drilling mind on the pandemic itself. There are also chances of growing populist agenda in the upcoming days in the US elections to woe lower income families who has been worst sufferer of the pandemic.

Way forward

The effects of the COVID-19 in global and Nepal in particular is very hard hitting. Even the developed and most industrialized nations is doing its level best to overcome these challenges. While underlining the death toll in Italy, USA and Spain; one could seriously think of significant need of investment in health sector by the Western nations. Therefore, post-COVID-19 years have challenges for the Western nations to significantly invest on their own health system first and also to invest on the developing world health system. Secondly, Health certificate might be mandatory during Visa application process for developing world citizens for travelling to western nations. This virus proves that, we are deeply rooted into hyper inter-dependency and globalization where killing an opponent is suicidal for itself. In addition to this, there might be some changes in the border regulations of the EU for non-European nationals during post-COVID-19 days. Despite this fact, there is also potentiality of above contradiction stage.

In the case of Nepal, Tourism sectors including its sub sectors like Civil Aviation, Trekking, Foreign Labour employment has been worst sufferer during COVID-19 crisis. To overcome this crisis, Nepal government has announced its economic relief package for its public. But proper implementation of such relief package matters. As we know from the previous Earthquake Recovery fund; the inefficient management of the resource, mechanism has halted the work progress the project. So, government should have all relevant stakeholders’ dialogues to develop a comprehensive working strategy for proper implementation of this package.

In conclusion, strong economic stimulus package and its proper implementations is required to lift public from this deep cross-cutting crisis of the COVID-19. For making this reality; national level coordination with global consortium is essential to mitigate this crisis. Most significantly; UN system, World Bank, IMF, AIIB will have key role in making this COVID-19 pandemic a crisitunity.

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Negative effects for Russia of the US-China Phase-One-Deal

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After a 1.5-year trade dispute between the United States and China in which both have raised mutual import tariffs from 3.8 percent and 8.3 percent to 21 percent each, and as a result of which the US-Chinese merchandise trade has dropped by almost USD 90 billion, US President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on January 15, 2020 signed the first phase of a highly controversial and fiercely negotiated trade agreement. On February 14, 2020 this so called “Economic and Trade Agreement” (ETA) entered into force and marked a new phase in the protracted geopolitical rivalry between Washington and Beijing.In this highly asymmetrical contract, the Chinese commit to open their market and to buy significantly more goods from the United States than before, which is in line with Trump’s wish for a lower trade deficit. This means a doubling of merchandise imports from the United States, because within two years Beijing is expected to increase spending on selected US goods by around USD 200 billion (compared to the base year 2017).In return for the Chinese concessions, Trump has only committed to waiving new tariffs and to halving the most punitive tariffs for a subset of products from the current 15 to 7.5 percent. In the usual American manner, this has so far only been promised as an oral understanding.According to the latest calculations by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), the purchase commitments can result in significant trade diversion effects and market share shifts for China’s trading partners. As a result, Brazil (-19 percent), the EU (-17 percent) – including above all Germany (-7 percent), and Russia (-10 percent) would have to expect the greatest export losses.Accordingly, Russian exports to China could be 10 percent lower by 2021, which is equivalent to a loss of USD 3.1 billion.

Russian energy exports hit hardest

US presidents have always tried to ensure American energy dominance. The “Nord-Stream 2” pipeline, which is to bring 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to the German and Western European markets annually, remains a thorn in Washington’s side, but the Phase-One-Deal gives the USA better access China’s energy market – the world’s most desirable.A recent study by the Institute of the German Economy (IW Köln) shows that due to the agreed energy imports, the US would move from eleventh place in 2017 (USD 6.8 billion) to first place (USD 41 billion) in 2021 in China’s supplier list of energy carriers. In absolute terms, Russian crude oil exports to China would be the most affected : by 2021 they could be 12 percent lower, corresponding to a loss of USD 2.5 billion.On a relative scale the artificial trade changes would also significantly affect other important Russian export sectors to China. Exports of soybeans could decrease by 25 percent or USD 10 million, of sunflower oil by 29 percent or USD 40 million, of coal by 10 percent or USD 180 million, of seafood by 9 percent or USD 100 million, of aircraft parts by as much as a third (USD 40 million).Furthermore, the agreement may jeopardize Moscow’s intention to become an important natural gas supplier for China. In December 2019, the “Power of Siberia” gas pipeline was put into operation, under which a supply contract of over 38 billion cubic meters per year was concluded with China for a period of 30 years. Additional quantities are expected to be sold through an LNG terminal in Vladivostok in the Asia-Pacific region. Accordingly, China is to become the second most important gas sales market to Russia after the EU. However, the trade diversions in the ETA agreement could result in China’s imports of liquefied natural gas from Russia dropping by 25 percent by 2021, representing a loss of USD 10 million.According to Dr. Sonja Beer, economist at IW Cologne, it is too early to say exactly which group of Russian energy exports to China will be affected most.“The problem is that the energy section of the agreement only says that China will buy liquefied natural gas, crude oil, coal, etc. from the United States, but does not indicate which of these product groups is to be given priority and to what extent. More precise calculations are therefore not yet possible. However, due to the high Chinese import tariffs for American LNG (25 percent), we can assume that China will concentrate more on buying crude oil in the USA. Especially since China announced earlier this month that it would halve the existing 5 percent tariff for crude oil. It is impossible to predict exactly how trade flows will change in this case, but this could adversely affect Russia and Saudi Arabia, the largest suppliers of crude oil to China”, Beer explains, adding: “If Chinese LNG tariffs are significantly reduced, Beijing could buy more gas from the United States. This, in turn, could adversely affect Australia and Qatar and the prospects of increasing the supply of Russian gas to the Chinese market”.

Phase-One-Deal violates WTO criteria

Dr. Gabriel Felbermayr, President of IfW Kiel, also criticize the new trade deal between China and the USA.“The deal leverages free market principles in favor of the USA and to the detriment of third parties. “Managed trade”, i.e. explicit agreements on trade volumes for certain product groups, also clearly violates the WTO guidelines and thus undermines the multilateral trading system”, argues Felbermayr.After the likely re-election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, protectionism and “managed trade” trends are expected to further intensify in the global economy, which is still dominated by the United States. In any case, such a “managed trade” agreement with China is not the first of its kind under Trump’s presidential administration. Already on September 25, 2019, the United States and Japan announced a trade agreement that hardly fulfills the criterion of “essentially complete trade” under Article XXIV of the GATT (WTO), since the scope of customs liberalization is very limited and asymmetrical in favor of the United States.

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