Under the radar of the big news items, fueled by the migration and Russia crises, populism and the threat of Brexit, terrorism and (once again) the Eurocrisis, another issue is emerging: trade. Now while this seems pretty boring, tens of thousand ds of people assemble on squares in Europe to protest against the TTIP, the planned trade agreement between the USA and the EU, and its sibling, the TPP, the related treaty between the U.S. and ASEAN countries, also suffers from a mixed reputation. All current U.S. presidential candidates have positioned themselves more or less against these trade agreements.
And indeed, there is data that suggests previous trade agreements have cost industrial workers in America jobs. On the other hand, David Ricardo would argue even today that nothing better may happen to a country then healthy trade relations. As well, these deals have geopolitical benefits, serving as a way of tightening links between the US and EU in the case of the TTIP, and the US and its ASEAN partners with the TPP. Nonetheless, there are two major issues turning people against these negotiations: first, that there are useful or ‘just’ standards that would have to be reduced for assuring consensus among signatories; and second, that there is an inbuilt trend away from national legislation, towards arbitration in the case of conflicts.
Now how do we, the experts, assess these two treaties? Should they be finalized soon, before there will be a new U.S. administration, or does it pay off to let the talk linger indefinitely?
– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers
The U.S. primaries campaign confirms so far that populism is the dominant feature of this pre-election. One (out of three) Democratic candidates, and two and a half (out of 8 remaining) Republican candidates are explicit populists.
The caucus in Iowa demonstrated that out of the Democratic leaning electorate, exactly half support the populist Bernie Sanders. Among the Republicans, 52% supported clear populists (Cruz and Trump), and another 24% a populist impersonator (Rubio). The voices of relative constraint – Bush, Fiorina, Kasich, Christie – selected jointly less than ten percentage points. They were trounced.
It is too early to extrapolate these first results. But, in a few weeks, we may be left with four or five candidates, three (or four) of them being populists, suggesting that gating America against globalization is the proper answer to all urgent problems and uncertainties.
What does this indicate for the future American global position, and politics?
– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers
One of the messiest spots in global politics is Syria. No one seems to know what to do, or what not to do, to stop the civil war with all its international and transnational spillover.
There are different fault-lines converging, and addressing just one of them doesn’t do the job. First, relatively peaceful and secular Syria has been turned into a sectarian fighting place. Increasingly, people identify themselves culturally. Second, and related, this is a space where Shia (the Alawites) and Sunni (IS and other militias) groups clash violently.
Third, this trend is exacerbated by the meddling of two competing regional regimes – Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Fourth, all but one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council are militarily involved. Fifth, some neighboring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey) may soon not be able to absorb the pressure of the fighting next door as well as the millions of refugees that have already arrived, or are on their way to Europe.
One of the core problems is that almost all of the external actors involved (except the Islamic State) are not so sure how decisively they want to be engaged. There is neither decisive intervention, nor clear non-intervention, but, mostly, meddling.
Do you see any option for progress, however small?