Frihandel i media vecka 26


Harvardekonomen Bill George skriver i Fortune om varför den globala frihandeln är hotad:

This isn’t the first time the U. S. has engaged in trade wars. Following the stock market crash of 1929, political fervor over the loss of jobs to imports led to the passage of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. It raised tariffs on 20,000 imported goods and led to retaliatory tariffs from many of America’s trading partners. The bill was intended to reduce the 8% unemployment rate, but just the opposite happened: unemployment jumped to 16% in 1931 and 25% by 1933.

After World War II, the U.S. took an entirely different tack, working with the European nations to open up trade and eliminate tariffs. On October 30, 1947, 30 nations signed the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The U.S. passed the Marshall Plan that invested $12 billion (nearly $100 billion in 2018) to rebuild the war-torn economies of Western Europe, leading to Germany’s resurgence as a global economic power. A similar American initiative enabled Japan’s great industries to rebound.

In 1950, Frenchman Jean Monnet had the vision of replacing centuries of wars between Germany and France with a trade coalition that benefited and strengthened Europe’s position in the world. In 1958 European government leaders came together to form the European Economic Community, which became the European Community in 1967, and the European Union in 1993. In 1993 the U.S., Mexico and Canada formed NAFTA to compete with Asian and European nations. The following year, 123 nations created the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a comprehensive successor to GATT.

These trade agreements fueled the era of globalization and free trade, propelling a prolonged economic boom throughout the world, the rise of the Asian middle class, and the lifting of one billion people out of poverty.

Then came the 2008 financial crisis and a massive recession which spread globally. In spite of extreme efforts by governments to backstop banks and restore financial markets, the recession created double digit unemployment.

As a consequence, employees who had devoted their working lives to a single company found themselves out of work, with few resources to sustain them. Many U.S. factories closed, unable to compete with Mexican and Asian producers, putting millions more out of work. Even worse, they learned they were not qualified for new jobs as automation and technology made their skills obsolete. Unable to find meaningful jobs, many people simply dropped out of the workforce. Meanwhile, U.S. government leaders and companies failed to create retraining programs to bring these unemployed workers back to productive lives.

In spite of the economic rebound since 2010, a large swath of unemployed, disempowered workers have been left behind. Those who had jobs experienced no real wage growth as the wealthy reaped all the benefits of the recovery. Angry workers blamed immigrants and globalization for their problems, and supported nationalist movements in the U.S. and U.K., as well as France, Germany, Poland, Italy, Austria, Venezuela, and Brazil.

Meanwhile, the great global institutions formed after World War II are becoming ineffective and need to be revamped for today’s world. Without effective global leaders with the political clout to push reform these institutions will likely continue to lose impact and relevance.

Meanwhile, leaders of global companies are pushing hard for an end to the trade wars. Last week 661 companies wrote to President Trump asking him to settle the dispute, as corporate leaders are more committed than ever to their globalization strategies. These CEOs are especially anxious about Trump’s threat to levy 25% tariffs on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports, which will trigger a corresponding increase in U.S. consumer prices and a significant reduction in demand.

If Presidents Trump and Xi are unable to reconcile their differences, trade threats and tariffs will continue with no end in sight. And without visionary political leaders and effective global institutions to unite nations around free trade, tariff wars are likely to slow economic growth and erase the benefits that such trade brings people around the world, marking the end of the 70-year era of free trade.”



Dagens Industri avhandlar G20-mötet och handelskriget mellan USA och Kina: 

”För en sak ska man ha klart för sig. Det är inte ett frihandelsavtal mellan länderna som ligger på bordet. Trump ser internationell handel som ett nollsummespel, där den ena vinner på bekostnad av den andra. Vid upprepade tillfällen har han gett uttryck för sin syn på handelsrelationen mellan USA och Kina som att den senare stövlar över den förstnämnda genom sin storskaliga export. Det som han vill ha från Kina är en ökad import av amerikanska varor.

Ett handelsavtal där kinesisk import från USA i praktiken är reglerad snarare än baserad på marknadskrafter är inte en vinst för dem som tror på frihandeln. Tvärtom urgröper den principen om rättvis konkurrens och den osynliga handen som marknadens styrmekanism. Det spelar ingen roll vilka konkurrensfördelar som europeiska företag har på den kinesiska marknaden i fall Donald Trumps armvridarstrategi går vägen hos Xi Jinping.

Den ekonomiska skada som detta skulle innebära för dem som verkar på den europeiska marknaden är givetvis skäl nog för oro. Vad som vore ännu värre är emellertid om andra skulle vända blicken mot och lockas av Trumps sätt att förhandla fram handelsavtal.

Handeln har i modern tid ofta varit baserad på reciprocitet, det vill säga en princip om att ”vi sänker våra tullar mot att ni sänker era tullar”. I februari meddelade Trump EU att om unionen inte gav efter i handelsdiskussioner med USA skulle man ”tariff the hell out of you”. Retoriken liknar den som förs mot Kina. Vi har redan börjat se prov på denna retoriks fäste i EU, efter att EU-kommissionen i våras meddelade att man vill kräva tillgång till offentliga upphandlingar i andra länder mot hot om att annars stänga deras tillgång till europeiska upphandlingar.

En upptrappad handelskonflikt eller ett nytt, snedvridande sätt att driva fram handelsavtal. Oavsett utfall i USA-Kina-konflikten lär frihandeln gå en svår tid till mötes.”


Till sist ett citat från Nigerias president Muhammadu Buhari:

“Africa needs not only a trade policy, but also a continental manufacturing agenda,” Buhari said. “Our vision for intra-African trade is for the free movement of made-in-Africa goods. That is, goods and services made locally with dominant African content in terms of raw materials and value addition.”

Kategorier: Frihandel i media