As Fareed Zakaria has pointed out this week in the Washington Post and on CNN GPS, we now have a Trump foreign policy doctrine, and it is not reassuring for the World. Obviously heavily influenced by Bannon, who many had thought had been relegated to backseat status by McMaster, we have been fooled again. As Trump demonstrates his RealPolitik admiration for authoritarians like Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan, and Duterte, more sinister scenarios begin to crystallize. Trump’s speech justifying the withdrawal of the United States from the COP21 Paris Climate Change Agreement is a frightening exposition of this new Trump Doctrine. It is Trump thumbing his nose at the World. It is the United States against the World, led by a coterie of plutocrats and their money. The reality is that the evidence points to an ongoing seizure of executive power by Trump that destroys our Constitution in the name of our national security. The question is what we can do about it.
Wall Street is currently basking in a vigorous “Trump rally,” with the Dow rising more than 1000 points since the election. The rally is driven by analysts who are salivating over the future prospect of sweeping deregulation of many markets. But there is also chorus of concern from dozens of financial experts, that the global financial markets are “whistling in the graveyard,” acting in a classicly irrational manner. Experts cite a host of issues both financial and geopolitical, among them Trump’s intention to exit TPP, NAFTA, and the COP21 Climate Agreement. Combined with rising geopolitical tensions with China, North Korea, and Iran, a perfect storm of global uncertainty and instability is forming.
Britain can be proud of itself. Once again, it had already shown the world the way. In propelling Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage to triumph on 23 June, it demonstrated well before 8 November that Donald Trump was nothing new. In fact foolishness, vulgarity, inconsistency, and irresponsibility seem actually to be British inventions that have been painstakingly copied – once more – by the Americans. The age of such drab characters as Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron is over. No more, it appears, must we suffer leaders equipped with a brain and a sense of the common interest. The hour of the political clown has come.
Italy, Austria, and France, in that order, are the next dominos likely to fall in the global wave of populist political sentiment. Italy and Austria will both go to the polls on the same day next month, December 4th, for somewhat different reasons, but with both outcomes likely to advance the political forces on the right in Europe. In Austria, it’s expected that Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party will prevail. That would make him the first elected far-right leader in Western Europe since 1945. Italy’s vote is a referendum initially scheduled for the fall. On the table is a package of constitutional reforms that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has proposed to streamline lawmaking, but it is increasingly being seen a plebiscite on Renzi’s government, which it appears he may lose, causing his government to fall, and creating an opportunity for the far right to form a new anti-immigration government. In the upcoming 2017 Presidential election in France, ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen is seen as the possible front-runner.
The global agribusiness industry has recently seen a feeding frenzy of merger and acquisition activity. The announcement this week of Bayer’s proposed purchase of Monsanto after months of difficult negotiation is only one among other such industry consolidation deals. Dow Chemical and DuPont agreed last year to merge their crop science businesses, a deal currently under Justice Department review. Canadian fertilizer companies Potash Corp. and Agrium also agreed to merge this week. Finally, Swiss pesticide giant Syngenta AG agreed to a $43 billion takeover by China National Chemical Corp., a state-owned conglomerate that already sells generic agricultural chemicals. The bigger picture suggests severely reduced competition, higher prices for farmers and consumers, and increased global corporate control of crop seeds, particularly GMO’s. So what is going on here?
Today’s long-expected announcement that the European Union has assessed that Apple owes €13 Billion ($14.5 Billion) in back taxes to Ireland and the EU, is only one part of a much larger story of multinational corporations global tax jurisdiction and tax avoidance, and a looming fight between the EU and US over which one gets the €13 Billion. There is not much disagreement whether Apple actually owes the money. It also reopens the as yet unresolved matter of multinational corporate taxation, most recently exposed by Pfizer’s announcement that it would move its HQ to Ireland to avoid U.S. taxation, which was later blocked by the U.S. government.
The following infographic provides an excellent overview of the World’s Most Innovative Countries and the weighted criteria used to rank the top 10. Glaringly, Canada is completely absent from this list. It is worth noting that eight of the ten countries listed have much smaller populations than Canada. That said, I have little essential disagreement with this list. Investment in research & development, leading to commercial technology innovation is crucial to a country’s economic growth and competitiveness in productivity. Canada lags in every category.