Category Archives: Business

COVID-19 bulletin 27: misgovernment – arms manufacturers thrive, US/UK economies suffer


Mark Shapiro draws attention to an article by Alan Macleod reporting that –  though the US economy is suffering – American arms manufacturers are thriving.

It opens:

“The American economy has crashed – only the military industrial complex is booming. A nationwide pandemic that has (officially) claimed some 84,000 Americans has also led to an estimated 36 million filing for unemployment insurance and millions frequenting food banks for the first time”. But weapons manufacturers are busier than ever, advertising for tens of thousands more workers:

  • Northrop Grumman announced that it was planning to hire up to 10,000  employees this year.
  • Last month, the Air Force commissioned Raytheon to develop and build a new nuclear cruise missile.
  • Raytheon is still advertising 2,000 new jobs in the military wing of its business.
  • Boeing is looking to add hundreds of new workers in its defense, intelligence, and cybersecurity departments and
  • Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms dealer, announcedon Friday that it is “actively recruiting for over 4,600 roles,” in addition to the 2,365 new employees it has taken on since the lockdown started.

Washington has designated weapons manufacturers as “essential” services during a pandemic (CNN report)

In February, the Pentagon released a $705 billion budget request for 2021, revealing that there would be a “shifting focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a greater emphasis on the types of weapons that could be used to confront nuclear giants like Russia and China.”

Confronting nuclear giants like Russia and China

MacLeod points out that, just as Donald Trump was increasing the military budget, he slashed funding for the Center for Disease Control and for the World Health Organization, perhaps the only international body capable of limiting the spread of the virus.

In America and the rest of the world, poverty and disease have inflicted a far higher death toll than warfare

Yesterday US COVID-19’s death toll was 99,886. The United States has suffered the highest death toll from COVID-19 and the pandemic has led Americans to ask whether the enormous military budget is making them safer or whether well-funded healthcare, education and social care would have saved or enhanced more lives.

(War figures include American military deaths in battle, and in-theatre deaths as available. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS; JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY)

Alan Macleod ends: “However, that question appears not to have been debated within the walls of the White House, where it is full steam ahead with weapons production”. 


Journalist Simon Jenkins reported last year that the British government boasted of record sales with 80% going to the Middle East.

He asserted that Britain should not be weaponising the suppression of dissent in Egypt, Bangladesh, Colombia, Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states – their national defence better termed, regime defence.

Calling the last London arms fair (above) “a stain on the nation . . . the most awesome glamorisation of death on the planet”, he added “The reality is that Britain and the US are in an arms race with the Russians in this theatre – with no remotely peaceful objective”.

And Symon Hill, in an article on security, points out that for years, “security” and “defence” have been euphemisms for war and preparations for war, adding that the coronavirus crisis is a fatal reminder that security, safety and defence cannot be found in armed force.

He ends: “In the long term, we must put our resources into addressing real threats, not into the waste and destruction of war”.






Brexit 13: Continued EU access to the UK’s fishing waters required

On January 8th, prime minister Boris Johnson told European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen that Britain would insist on “maintaining control of UK fishing waters” after it leaves the EU.

During his first meeting with Ms von der Leyen, the prime minister laid down his terms, insisting that any trade deal with the EU must be complete by the end of 2020 and that Britain would “not align” with the bloc’s rules.

An EU condition for future trade & financial services deals is access to the UK’s fish-rich waters

In January, Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar warned of a fish-for-financial-services Brexit clash on the 27th, suggesting that the City of London could lose access to European markets unless the UK opens up its coastal waters to EU boats. Britain has long suspected that Brussels would demand continued EU access to the UK’s fish-rich waters as a condition of a future trade deal, with an explicit link being drawn to an agreement on financial services.

Alex Barker notes that French, Dutch, Belgian, Swedish and Danish fishing fleets are highly dependent on operating in UK waters, and abruptly losing access would potentially deal a devastating shock to many coastal communities. In what he describes as “an admission of the bloc’s vulnerable position over the politically sensitive industry”, Brussels has recognised that EU member states may need to negotiate country-by-country fishing deals to access to UK waters if there is a no-deal Brexit.

In March, the first round of negotiations on the EU’s future relationship with the UK in Brussels took place. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the meetings highlighted areas of “very serious divergence”:

  • the role of the European Court of Justice,
  • Britain’s determination not to align with EU rules and standards,
  • and Britain’s insistence that fishing rights to its waters must be decided by annual negotiations with the EU (Norway-style model).

The BBC reports that in the latest round of UK-EU trade talks this week, there were detailed discussions on access to UK fishing waters and other top EU priorities this week. The UK’s negotiator David Frost said a far-reaching free trade agreement could be agreed before the end of the year “without major difficulties”, but it was being held up by the EU’s desire to “bind” the UK to its laws and seek unfair access to fishing waters.

Boris Johnson ruled out any agreement that guarantees EU fishermen’s long-term access to British waters and also rejected EU demands for a binding “level playing field” of labour market, environmental and competition standards that would draw heavily on European law.

Mr Barnier stated clearly that the EU will never agree a trade deal with Britain unless access to UK fishing waters and the level playing field arrangements are settled to the bloc’s satisfaction.

Robin Healey foresees that French labour unions ‘in solidarity, no doubt, with their fishermen confrères, the French port, customs, immigration, dock and railway workers’, could paralyse all Calais-Dover transport facilities and no commercial or private traffic could move in either direction.

In its detailed account the FT’s George Parker explains that the 26-mile Dover-Calais route (above) is a commercial and physical chokepoint for the UK. No other cross-Channel route can match its two-way traffic capacity; Dover’s roll-on roll-off ferries handle about 10,000 trucks on a busy day, many carrying perishable goods.

Barker suggests the development of east coast ports for greater “roll-on, roll-off” ferry traffic in the event of disruption in France. This would allow Britain to carry out more trade with Belgium or the Netherlands. Business Live reports that a new daily service from Calais to Tilbury, is saving up to 75 road miles each day compared with the Calais-Dover crossing, using less fuel and landing goods on London’s ‘doorstep’.

As strikes by French fishermen have previously blocked Calais, Parker warns that Mr Johnson’s ‘hardball negotiating tactics’ on fishing quotas in post-Brexit trade talks risk triggering another protest – and as Healey says “the UK will be truly cut off, not the Continent”.

Which side will blink first? The UK faces disruption of supplies, but as a bloc, EU countries sell more goods to the UK than vice-versa, so would seem to have more to lose in financial terms.









COVID-19 bulletin 24: though death toll rises in Yemen, BAE-assisted airstrikes continue

Flooding struck Aden in April, leaving several areas submerged in sewage and water for weeks and this month over 600 people have died in Yemen’s capital.

In a detailed account, the World Health Organisation says there is no way of assessing how many other deaths there have been in this war ravaged country.

Andrew Smith (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) said that UK-made Typhoon Eurofighter jets (above) have played a key role in the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen and despite the humanitarian crisis and the outbreak of Covid-19, the war is still raging. He ended:

“We are in unprecedented times and this should not be happening”.

British arms manufacturer BAE is also responsible for the maintenance and support of the kingdom’s 72 jets and has continued to supply military equipment, including spare parts, to Saudi Arabia throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

New Labour MP Sam Tarry (right) asked the Secretary of State for Defence two questions:

  • why have weekly flights continued from a BAE Systems factory in Warton to a military base in Saudi Arabia from where air strikes on Yemen are launched
  • and why those flights have been assessed as essential during the covid-19 lockdown.

Though a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states announced a ceasefire in April, the Yemen Data Project reports that the bombing has continued, with three civilians injured by an air strike as recently as May 2nd.

But as its AGM had to be cancelled, BAE has been spared angry questions about its trade in weapons – an annual ordeal.

Industry editor Alan Tovey notes that there is one bonus to the lockdown: BAE’s annual meeting, scheduled for May 7, is normally a testing time for the board, with proceedings routinely disrupted by anti-arms activists who gatecrash and forcefully question BAE’s trade in weapons.

He adds that BAE’s “sleepless enemies” see opportunities in the dispersed working.

BAE’s Systems’ chief executive Charles Woodburn (left) wouldn’t give details to Tovey, but confirms that BAE has seen a spike in attempted cyber intrusions since the pandemic hit.

Sadly, Woodburn describes higher military spending as a way of stimulating the economy once the current crisis passes.  No going back? Or business as usual?






COVID-19 bulletin 23: will a ‘shock-resistant food system’ be adopted?

Since the coronavirus pandemic took over and some supermarket egg and flour shelves are still bare here – and in parts of America – there has been greater public awareness of the fragility of our food system.

An earlier post said: “After 50 years of unjust returns for perishable produce, the coronavirus is beginning to affect food imports, just as bombing and submarines did during the last war”.

As one article in Prospect magazine commented earlier this month, supermarkets currently dominate the retail sector, with the “Big Four” often lobbying together and using their significant bargaining power to push down prices paid to farmers.

It is widely quoted that in 2016, according to ‘official estimates’, producers on average received 9p for every pound spent in a supermarket, compared with 45-60 per cent of the money consumers spent on food in the 1950s.

Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu reports that more farms have turned to home delivery services and a YouGov survey has found that three million people are trying box schemes or buying food from a local farm for the first time.

A Share of The Crop, a veg box supplier which sources produce from southeast England, received a year’s worth of additional orders during a single week in March.

Lauren Simpson, a farmer based in West Wales, hopes that this shift to local food will create a fair transition into a more sustainable food system.

She is a member of the Landworkers Alliance which is lobbying for the government to build a shock-resistant food system.

An emergency support fund for small farms during the pandemic, would be followed by provision of grants to new entrants to the industry, citing the need to grow more food in the UK and further assistance to create local supply chains, processing facilities and distribution networks.

To these measures should be added promotion of the Ripple Farm model: good practice which attracts reliable local workers (right):

  • holiday pay,
  • sick pay
  • good protective clothing
  • year-round employment five days a week,
  • job rotation: a hard stint outdoors in the morning, balanced by a less arduous indoor job in packing and admin in the afternoon.

Security: relying on imports or increasing the supply of home-grown food?

The government has consistently asserted that improving international trade relationships is the route to food security, but, as climate instability and Covid-19 have shown, the UK is vulnerable to global political, economic and public health challenges.

Yasemin concludes that short supply chains, with veg boxes and comparable schemes supplying fresh fruit, dairy and poultry, are not only better for the environment — they also help small producers to get a fair price by enabling smallholder farmers and smaller-scale retailers to sell directly to members of the public. They are then in control, having direct support from their community, no longer harassed by overnight order changes by the big supermarkets.








Current trade negotiations: government is ‘presently’ not adjusting its food welfare and safety standards to align with the US


Last week Rachel Wearmouth reported that UK chief trade negotiator Oliver Griffiths, in a letter to his US counterpart, agreed that anyone given access to information about any agreement reached will be warned that they cannot share it with the public. Moreover, the information will be held in confidence for five years after a US-UK trade agreement enters into force, or five years after the close of negotiations – a proposal made during the failed TTIP negotiations between America and the EU.

The government said agreeing terms on confidential documents was standard practice and that negotiators had committed to updating the public after every round of talks.

Liz Truss, international trade secretary, is overseeing the UK-US negotiations.

Today, an FT article reports that Liz Truss (Department for International Trade) is preparing to offer a “big concession package” to US negotiators and drawing up plans to slash tariffs on US agricultural imports, despite concerns from some ministers and Conservative MPs about the damage they could cause to British farming.

This measure has divided Conservatives; it is said to be opposed by Cabinet office minister Michael Gove and environment secretary George Eustice, who is concerned that cheaper US goods may undercut UK farmers. The FT also reports that senior DEFRA figures are concerned that reducing tariffs could be “the thin end of the wedge”, leading to further UK concessions on animal welfare standards, but officials added that government was ‘presently’ not adjusting its food welfare and safety standards to align with the US.

Nick von Westenholz (above), director of EU exit and international trade at the National Farmers’ Union, said that any concessions UK negotiators give on market access must be accompanied by clear conditions on how those goods have been produced, in line with the government’s own red lines in trade negotiations, repeated in their 2019 election manifesto. The Tory pledge:

“In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”







COVID-19 bulletin 22: there must be no going back – “normal wasn’t good enough”

AG, Moseley

After reading: ‘It’s positively alpine!’: Disbelief in big cities as air pollution falls, he wrote: “It will be such a shame to go back to how it was! It’s a good thing to think of future generations. I fear they’ll look back at mine and think we were all criminals”.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary general

Guterres says that the COVID-19 ‘Wake-Up Call’ Demands Recovery Built on Green Economy, Marking Earth Day 2020

Ben Chacko, editor of the Morning Star

As millions applaud NHS, care workers and formerly despised “key workers” from supermarket staff to couriers, the task facing us is to ensure there is no going back to “business as usual”. The workers keeping our country going should, in future, be given the pay, dignity and job security they have always deserved and the public services we rely on should never again be starved of resources or exposed to predatory privateers.

Celia Wright Sturminster Newton, Dorset

Local food: I hope the current situation results in more support for small retailers. Our local butchers and food shops offer products superior to those of supermarkets. In our north Dorset town, a dairy farmer has installed a milk station where we can purchase local milk – no plastic involved. It is wonderful.

David Tinsley

As a Naturopath I believe it is the condition of the host that is paramount in avoiding illness so it seems to me that in a world in which quality of input either through diet, the mind, the emotions etc has been so lowered  through the control of the food industry, the mass media, the pharmaceutical companies etc. it is no wonder Nature takes control.  I am just reading the book ‘The Chemistry of Connection’ by Patrick Holford in which he concludes that health depends on being ‘connected’ to a larger universe, a higher power, your physical health, to others, to the environment and to society.  I only hope when, and if things get back to normal there is a greater understanding of how to live and what is important.

Diana Schumacher, founder of the Schumacher Society and co-founder of the Environmental Law Foundation.

I hope that the society that emerges after this crisis will be wiser, kinder and more focused on community, local production and distribution systems, and with less reliance on outsourcing on short term economic grounds alone.

FT editorial: 3.4.20

“Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix”.

George Morran, former Assistant Chief Executive Dudley MBC

The only good side of the pandemic is that it may open up minds to all sort of needs and result in individual and public change’.

Jan Ritchie Torquay, Devon.

Lockdown lessons – I have just been for my daily constitutional to Torquay seafront and round the harbour. Although this is always an attractive spot, I usually see cast-off takeaway cartons, coffee cups, cigarette butts and other detritus floating around, as well as a film of diesel from the boats. This time, however, the water was crystal clear – the cleanest I have seen it in the 40 years I have lived here, with not a bit of rubbish in either the inner or outer harbour. I’m sure many lessons will be learnt from this time, but let’s hope that one of them will be what we can all do to change our behaviour in order to benefit the environment around us.

Prof Joseph Stiglitz, economist, public policy analyst

If the pandemic leaves export-oriented economies facing long-term difficulties they will be forced into a total reassessment of the global supply chain. The pandemic has revealed the drawbacks of concentrating production of medical supplies. As a result, just-in-time imports will go down and production of domestically sourced goods will go up.

Martin Canavan, Castlewellan, NI

The Covid-19 emergency may paradoxically function as a catalyst for a final reckoning with capitalism, by ushering in a new collective ethic of social solidarity to end the tyranny of profit over people and the planet . . . The challenge for the broad left and green movements is to coalesce around an egalitarian agenda that can resist this turning-back of the clock and usher in a new world, a new society, a new humanity, a new way of being.

Marco Granelli, deputy mayor of Milan

Milan has been especially hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak. Under the nationwide lockdown, motor traffic congestion has dropped by 30-75%, and air pollution with it. City officials hope to fend off a resurgence in car use as residents return to work looking to avoid busy public transport: “We worked for years to reduce car use. If everybody drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move, there is no space for commercial activities outside the shops. Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before. We think we have to reimagine Milan in the new situation”.

17 European climate and environment ministers

These ministers are calling for the European Green Deal to be put at the heart of the economic response to Covid-19: “We should begin to prepare ourselves to rebuild our economy and to introduce the necessary recovery plans to bring renewed, sustainable progress and prosperity back to Europe and its citizens”.

Mark Lewis, global head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas Asset Management

As oil prices crashed through zero, closing out the day at -$37 per barrel, an unprecedented meltdown, Lewis argues in the FT that we may have just witnessed the permanent peak in oil demand. Greater efficiency, more EVs and also permanent changes in behaviour stemming from the pandemic could add up to a peak in consumption.

Trevor Barker, Green Party activist

Hopefully a new mindset will evolve out of this crisis.

SynBioBeta: innovation network for biological engineers, investors, innovators and entrepreneurs

Like the rest of the world, the synthetic biology industry is undergoing a pivot during this unprecedented time. If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s pushing us all to change how we do things—and that’s for the best, because normal wasn’t good enough.#





COVID-10 bulletin 20: Can governments afford the debts they are piling up?

In the Financial Times an economist and a financial historian debate the long-term viability of the Covid-19 rescue packages  – an issue which is concerning many thoughtful members of the public.

Stephanie Kelton is professor of economics and public policy at the State University of New York and a former chief economist on the US Senate Budget Committee. Last year she was on Bloomberg’s list of the 50 people most influential on global markets. Her forthcoming book is “The Deficit Myth”.

“Yes” says Professor Kelton: “While public debt can create problems in certain circumstances, it poses no inherent danger to currency-issuing governments, such as the US, Japan, or the UK. This is not, as some argue, because these countries can currently borrow at very low cost, or because a strong recovery will allow them to grow their way out of debt”. She gives three reasons:

  • First, a currency-issuing government never needs to borrow its own currency.
  • Second, it can always determine the interest rate on bonds it chooses to sell.
  • Third, government bonds help to shore up the private sector’s finances.

“No” says Edward Chancellor, a financial historian, journalist and investment strategist. In 2008, he joined Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo’s asset allocation team. He is the author of a forthcoming history of interest.

He believes that governments can print money to cover their costs only as long as the public retains confidence in a currency. When the crisis passes, the excess money must be mopped up, but politicians are unlikely to raise taxes in time to nip inflation in the bud. Though bonds can be issued to withdraw money from circulation, once inflation is under way, bondholders demand higher coupons (the amount of annual interest paid by the bond’s issuer to the bondholder).

Others would argue that, as new money is created at the stroke of bankers’ pens – or the click of a computer key, when they approve loans (see Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin) money can be deleted in the same way.

Nick Boles who formerly served as MP for Grantham and Stamford, writes In a recent Financial Times’ article:

“The usual objection to printing money to pay for government spending is that it will unleash inflation. That would be true if the spending being financed were increasing the overall level of demand in the economy, and if markets expected the government to resort to monetary financing as a matter of course. Neither of these conditions holds true today”.

Martin Wolf (below) was a senior World Bank economist and Director of Studies at the Trade Policy Research Centre, in London. He joined the Financial Times in 1987, where he is associate editor and chief economics commentator. He agrees with Professor Kelton on this subject, writing in the FT:

“Our financial system is so unstable because the state first allowed it to create almost all the money in the economy and was then forced to insure it when performing that function . . .

“A maximum response would be to give the state a monopoly on money creation. A 2012 study by International Monetary Fund staff suggests this plan could work well. Banks could offer investment accounts, which would provide loans. But they could only loan money actually invested by customers. They would be stopped from creating such accounts out of thin air and so would become the intermediaries that many wrongly believe they now are”.

Wolf talks about the issue (from 8.37mins) in a very interesting videoed interview on Indian television which focusses on the global economic impact of the coronavirus.








COVID-19 bulletin 17: should corporate bailouts be restricted?

Amid criticism of attempts by business owners such as Sir Richard Branson to receive government help, senior clergy have written to the press saying that companies registered in offshore tax havens should be refused corporate bailouts.

On April 25th, Business Insider reported that France is now barring firms registered in offshore tax havens from its government coronavirus bailout, following similar bans in Denmark and Poland.

And as Tata Steel – though continuing to pay out handsome dividends – seeks about £500m in government support, Richard Bravo in BloombergPolitics questions government spending on large but struggling companies.

He notes that European governments are proposing to spend more than $2 trillion supporting national industries amid the coronavirus pandemic and asks: “throwing good money after bad?“ (Paywall)

Many of the companies looking for bailouts, such as Air France-KLM and Renault SA, were struggling long before Covid-19 ground the continent’s economies to a halt. Bravo points out that these governments might be creating scores of national zombies that will require taxpayer support long after the crisis has passed. More detail in Regina Leader Post.

He suggests that decision-makers will be weighing the political costs of allowing companies which support national export markets and create thousands of well-paying, middle class jobs to fail.

Yesterday’s FT editorial warned that the judgment from the court of public opinion may be harsh – and after such criticism, Shake Shack, the US burger chain, decided to return the $10m it had received under their government’s bailout for small business. The verdict of the Moseley reader who sent the lead to this article: “No company should be too big to fail !!”

The FT advised firms seeking bailouts to curb excessive executive pay and governments to award payments only to those placing a moratorium on share buybacks and dividend payments. 





COVID-19 bulletin 11: in future, rely on fossil-fuelled imports or reorient agriculture?

Some shortening of global supply chains is inevitable . . . the pandemic has exposed just how far even the richest nations are from strategic self-sufficiency (associate editor, FT).

Certain vested interests are increasingly un-nerved by the Government’s acknowledgement of the crucial role played by food producers

As the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) notes: post-COVID-19, politicians have learnt to celebrate ‘more than four million hidden heroes’ who work in Britain’s farm‑to-fork supply chain (but not yet to insist that they receive a fair price for their heroism, we add). There is a growing recognition in political circles that food security requires a return to post-war levels of production. 

Processors, export/importers and commodity speculators call to arms . . .

The FDF said – in a letter co-signed by 30 trade bodies this week – that ministers must fight to keep goods moving around the world after the pandemic has shown how essential global supply chains are for feeding consumers. On 18th March it launched a survey (above), hoping to gain support for its cause.

In a Telegraph article FDF warns that long supply chains must continue, stressing that ‘free trade’ is critical to economic recovery – aka their profits? 

They write: “The British food and drink industry is an international success story. The country exports more than £23 billion worth of high-quality products each year”. This ‘success’ depends on exporting British produce and importing not only tropical fruits but beef, lamb and apples, easily available here – see The Great Food Swap, Lucas, (research: Hines, Hurd, Jones). And who profits from this polluting activity? Certainly not the average British farmer.

The alternative: more local, accountable and inclusive

As huge numbers of small suppliers are currently left stranded by the closure of local cafes, hotels and restaurants and vulnerable households can’t even get onto the telephone or internet queues for supermarket deliveries, Alan Simpson (right) – in a recent paper – notes that we grow only half of our own food needs.

“Internationally, buffer stocks of food are getting caught up in siege mentalities. Domestic needs will come before international trade . . . It won’t stop there. Floods and drought across Europe and beyond will cause mayhem with global food supply . . . food security is not going to be delivered by any compact between government, the army and the big supermarkets. The alternative needs to be more local, accountable and inclusive”.

William Sitwells (British) sheep farmer friend seethed

“Freezing lamb, putting it on a ship and sending it on a 12,000-mile journey to a country that produces the best lamb in the world is simply ridiculous . . . Supermarkets would retort that they stock the best cuts, when in season – which suggests there is not enough British lamb currently available”.

Not so, Sitwell points out: “Breeds such as the Dorset, for example, can lamb in November, but a lack of grass in winter makes the meat more expensive as farmers have to pay for feed”. Supermarkets have failed to invest in farmers rearing these types of animals in favour of cheaper meat from, say, New Zealand, causing a vicious circle: less British lamb available, so demand remains low and prices stay high.

Arch-exponent Helena Norberg-Hodge (left) addresses the issue of local, accountable food production and distribution in the latest episode of Russell Brand’s podcast, ‘Under the Skin 

Pre-COVID-19, Pantheon Economics recorded that world trade had already fallen “sharply,” dropping 1.4% in the year to June 2019 (text & photo: Business Insider). Arjun Kapur, New York Investment strategist, asserts in a letter to the FT’s editor that “2020 will go down as the year of ‘deglobalisation’ “.

He suggests, “Company leaders and world leaders would be wise to ditch their reliance on vulnerable supply chains in favour of more resilient, self-sufficient means of delivering health, economic, and business outcomes for their constituents and shareholders. The ship of globalisation is sailing away”.




COVID-19 bulletin 4: the Trump administration charged with ‘modern piracy’ and ‘wild west’ tactics

Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald reports that a number of countries have charged  the Trump administration with flouting international trade rules by diverting medical equipment including ventilators and personal protective equipment such as N95 respiratory face masks. She cites four examples:

  • The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegelreported on Friday that a delivery of protective equipment ordered by the State of Berlin in China for the coronavirus had been intercepted while they were being transferred between flights in Thailand and diverted to the United States.

  • BFMTV, the most popular French news channel, reports that the presidents of several French regions have recently denounced the diversion of a shipment of medical masks from Shanghai diverted after unidentified American buyers offered three times the asking price.
  • Cuba’s ambassador to China, Carlos M. Pereira, said on his blog thata foundation set up by Chinese business magnate Jack Ma tried to send Cuba 100,000 face masks and 10 COVID-19 diagnostic kits along with other aid including ventilators and gloves, but the airline would not transport them, citing the U.S. embargo.
  • Barbados’ Health Minister accused the United States of placing export restrictions, which had prevented it from acquiring critical medical equipment to fight COVID-19.
  • Minnesota-based 3M said the US administration had asked it to stop exporting its N95 respirators, currently manufactured in the United States, to the Canadian and Latin American markets

3M’s wise response

The company issued a statement four days ago warning of the “significant humanitarian implications” for health workers of blocking shipments, It pointed out that blocking export of respirators produced in the United States could lead to other countries stopping the export of equipment to the US and the net number of respirators available to the United States would fall, adding “That is the opposite of what we and the administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek”.

Today, the FT reports that the Trump administration has reached a deal with 3M, which has agreed to import 166.5m N95 respirator masks into America from their manufacturing base in China. It will now be permitted to continue selling its US-made N95 masks to Canada and Latin America.

Berlin’s Interior Minister Andreas GeiseI said confiscation of protective medical equipment was seen as “an act of modern piracy” and urged Germany’s government to demand that Washington observes international trade rules: “Even in times of global crisis, there should be no wild-west methods.”