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.
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?
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.
Global Financial Contagion, is a well-understood phenomenon among economists, but less so among the general public. Financial contagion refers to “the spread of market disturbances — mostly on the downside — from one country to the other, a process observed through co-movements in exchange rates, stock prices, sovereign spreads, and capital flows.” Financial contagion can be a potential risk for countries who are trying to integrate their financial system with international financial markets and institutions. It helps explain an economic crisis extending across neighboring countries, regions, or in the worst case, the entire global economy.
As we are now on the verge of U.S. Congressional ‘fast track” approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement, and simultaneously a severe challenge to the integrity of the European Union as Greece and the EU cannot seem to agree on terms to avoid a catastrophe, perhaps it is worth stepping back to consider these complex issues from a higher perspective. None of us has concrete answers. One thing is clear: the U.S. position as a global leader is under serious challenge.
The University of British Columbia is following the lead of faculty and students at Harvard University, the University of California, Stanford University and many other universities across North America. Also of note, Norway’s sovereign investment fund, the largest in the World @ $1.3 Trillion, has already made the decision to divest. The current fossil fuel market collapse and likely long term instability is prima facie evidence of the need for divestment, and to prevent further increases in carbon emissions.
The growing downturn in the fossil fuels industry has extraordinary implications globally. While some are proposing theories that this downturn will be short-lived, there simply isn’t much evidence to support an optimistic forecast. Saudi Arabia is openly executing a long term strategy to squeeze “high cost oil producers,” using its unquestioned leverage and the lowest production costs in the World. Europe is facing potential deflation, and the current European recession is forcing the European Central Bank to begin “quantitative easing,” beginning this week, essentially printing money. The Russian economy is in shambles as the ruble weakens, something Putin did not plan on occurring. The Chinese economy has weakened sharply and will likely remain weak into the near foreseeable future. Meanwhile Canada is at the mercy of these global forces, with little in the way of economic reserves to defend its economy, having bet the entire Canadian economy on oil.
Je suis fier d’etre Francais aujourd’ hui. 3.7 Million people turned out in Paris today, officially. Yesterday, large numbers of people also marched in Nice, Toulouse, Lyon and Nantes.
This article has resonated with me, and my own personal epiphany. It came to me as a university student, sitting on the grass in the university common area. I suddenly realized that I was my own boss, and I no longer cared much what other people thought of me. As the author says here, it was a sense of calm, and a moment that not everyone achieves. It is a variation on my own tag line…”The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Once again, I find that the key factor is people skills.