“Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals

Angela Merkel Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and French president Emmanuel Macron watch Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte walk into a European Council meeting in Brussels, July 18 (European Council)

Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte belong to the same European liberal family, but they take different views on the future of the liberal world order.

The French president believes Europe should become less reliant on the United States and foreign trade. He argues for “strategic autonomy” in everything from the digital economy to defense to environmental policy.

The Dutch prime minister has doubts, rooted in decades of Dutch Atlanticism and centuries of overseas trade.

Both have allies.

Macron has the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister.

Rutte is backed by smaller countries in Central and Northern Europe as well others in the European Commission. The Financial Times reports that plenty suspect “strategic autonomy” is a fancy way to dress up French protectionism; are wary of formally endorsing the principle if it means undermining NATO and open trade; and are skeptical of the push for reshoring of industry and supply chains.

They have reason to be. Read more ““Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals”

Europe and Japan Finalize Trade Deal

Tokyo Japan
View of Tokyo, Japan from the World Trade Center Building (Unsplash/Louie Martinez)

The European Union and Japan have finalized a trade agreement that would create the world’s largest open economic zone when it comes into effect in 2019.

The deal cuts tariffs, harmonizes product regulations and liberalizes public procurement for a market of 600 million people.

The EU and Japan account for 28 percent of the world’s economic output.

In a joint statement, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe said the deal demonstrates their commitment “to keeping the world economy working on the basis of free, open and fair markets with clear and transparent rules.” Read more “Europe and Japan Finalize Trade Deal”

Globalization Boosts Some Regions, Marginalizes Others

Chicago Illinois
Skyline of Chicago, Illinois (Unsplash/Pablo Vargas)

The Economist reports that globalization has marginalized once thriving industrial areas, such as Scranton, Pennsylvania, Teesside in the United Kingdom and France’s Pas-de-Calais.

It is no coincidence that Donald Trump, Brexit and Marine Le Pen got some of their highest vote shares in those regions. Read more “Globalization Boosts Some Regions, Marginalizes Others”

Conservatives Need to Make Capitalism Work for Everyone

It is not inequality that bothers Brits, argues Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative Party leader, in the new online magazine UnHerd. It’s injustice.

People expect that the CEO of a corporation will be the highest paid person on the payroll. What they don’t accept is that FTSE 100 bosses are paid 174 times the average worker’s wage in this decade — compared to 13 to 44 times in 1980.

Especially when many of their companies have received either big fraud-related fines or bailouts from the state.

The distinction matters, because it goes to a broader point. Read more “Conservatives Need to Make Capitalism Work for Everyone”

Europe, Japan Send “Strong Signal” with Trade Deal

Tokyo Japan
Tokyo, Japan at night (Unsplash/Louie Martinez)

European and Japanese leaders have announced a landmark trade agreement on the eve of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, where America’s president, Donald Trump, is expected to press his case for protectionism.

The treaty has yet to be finalized. A summit in Brussels was hastily arranged to “send a strong signal,” as the EU’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, put it earlier this week.

“We believe we should not build walls or raise protectionism,” she said. Read more “Europe, Japan Send “Strong Signal” with Trade Deal”

As America Turns Inward, Europe and Mexico Double Down on Trade

European Union flags
Flags of the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, July 22, 2016 (European Commission)

The European Union and Mexico have committed to deepening their economies ties in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States.

In a statement released last week, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Mexican economy secretary Ildefonso Guajardo announced that they would hold talks in April and June to renew a 2000 trade agreement between the two sides.

The EU hopes to expand the trade deal to broaden property rights protection, lower tariffs and include public tenders as well as trade in energy products and raw materials. Read more “As America Turns Inward, Europe and Mexico Double Down on Trade”

Dubai, Singapore and the Future of Neoliberalism

Dubai United Arab Emirates
Downtown Dubai seen from the Burj Khalifa (Unsplash/David Rodrigo)

It is the little things, they say, that count. The small places can tell us big things.

There are no smaller places than city states. Holdovers of bygone eras, they are quite nearly the oldest form of political organization our species has. Only tribalism is older and city states arose from settled tribes that over generations grew into legendary places like Ur, Jericho, Athens, the Yellow River city of Cai and the Indus Valley site of Harappa.

We have no empires left; a few kingdoms, though they keep dropping off the map. Nobody much minds. Yet if we were to lose our city states or our microstates, it would represent a collapse of the international order as we know it. Despite their tiny size, city states are bellwethers of their time. Read more “Dubai, Singapore and the Future of Neoliberalism”

World Upside Down: China Defends Globalization from America

Xi Jinping
Chinese president Xi Jinping attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 17 (WEF/Valeriano Di Domenico)

Chinese president Xi Jinping defended globalization in an address to the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, likening the world’s interconnectedness to a “big ocean that you cannot escape from.”

Xi didn’t mention Donald Trump, but his speech sounded like a warning to the incoming American president.

“Pursuing protectionism is just like locking one’s self in a dark room,” Xi said: “Wind and rain might be kept outside but so are light and air.”

He also warned that “no one would emerge as a winner” from a trade war.

Trump has called for higher tariffs on imported goods and measures against what he calls unfair Chinese trade practices. Read more “World Upside Down: China Defends Globalization from America”

Rural Areas and Small Towns Feel Left Behind as Cities Grow

London England
London, England at night, February 14, 2012 (Warren Chrismas)

Last month, I argued here that the election of Donald Trump in America and the vote to leave the EU in Britain could be understood as rural revolts against “the city”. This is a subplot in the story of the that is shaping up to be the defining political divide of our time.

I focused on the electoral politics of city versus countryside at the time and sort of skipped the question of why exactly there is so much discontent in the former.

Jonn Elledge answers that question in Britain’s New Statesman.

Put crudely, he argues the reason is that cities have won.

Under globalization, entire industries shipped overseas; and, with technological improvements, those that remain require far fewer workers. Towns that grew up to provide workers for a mine or a factory or the docks are now surplus to requirements. Their communities have, quite literally, lost their purpose.

Those trends have conspired with others, including the shift from manufacturing to services and a widening gap between college- and non-college-educated workers, to concentrate growth and opportunity in urban areas.

Cities have always been more liberal. But the influx of young, worldly university graduates — and the ease with which they move between cities — has sharpened the divide with the countryside. Read more “Rural Areas and Small Towns Feel Left Behind as Cities Grow”

Dark Days Ahead for Liberals

Washington DC
Washington DC at night (Pixabay/skeeze)

The light are going out for liberals and globalists around the Western world.

Austria is on the verge of electing its first far-right head of state since the end of the Second World War.

Poland last year switched its centrist, pluralist government for an ultraconservative administration that is threatening the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the press.

Marine Le Pen, who leads a party that was once unambiguously fascist, is almost certain to make it into the second round of France’s presidential election next year.

Even in the United Kingdom, the homeland of liberalism, there was an atmosphere of isolationism and xenophobia around the vote to leave the European Union in June.

And now America, “the last best hope of Earth,” as Abraham Lincoln once called it, has elected Donald J. Trump. Read more “Dark Days Ahead for Liberals”