Category Archives: Economy
The mediation skills of union organisers are valuable. Steve Turner (left), Assistant General Secretary (AGS) of Unite the Union, played a leading role in the successful Cabin Crew dispute (2010/11) with British Airways, when he was National Officer for Civil Aviation.
He was at the forefront of successful negotiations to resolve disputes involving oil tanker drivers and London bus workers during the London Olympic games and Northampton Hospital Workers, locked out in 2014.
Turner led a delegation of Unite workers to Washington and Montreal as part of the 2017/18 successful campaign to safeguard UK jobs; these were threatened by the US Department of Commerce’s proposal to place tariffs of 300% on Bombardier C-series passenger jets during the firm’s dispute with Boeing,
Turner now asks why our government and many private-sector corporations show no faith in our homegrown skills and products.
As we now look to build back, he stresses that this is the opportunity to repair, recover and rebuild with manufacturing at the heart of a new, greener, transitioning economy.
See “Rebuilding after Recession – a Plan for Jobs” : a just transition to a zero carbon economy TUC report “Rebuilding after Recession – a Plan for Jobs” report.
Paraphrasing George Monbiot’s Rings of Power essay: personnel employed by opaquely-funded thinktanks, that formulate and test the policies later adopted by government, circulate in and out of the offices of the UK Prime Minister and US President. Their output is published or reviewed in the print media, most of which is owned by billionaires or multi-millionaires living offshore.
Michèle Flournoy, a former US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and the co-founder of WestExec Advisors, described as ‘a diverse group of senior national security professionals with recent experience at the highest levels of the U.S. government’, has today published an article in the Financial Times.
It is – ostensibly – about the recent India/China confrontation, but is actually another move in what Robert Armstrong calls the US-China fight.
This cartoon replaces WestExec’s patronising cartoon of PM Modi and President Xi battling with stone-age clubs. It is taken from Jonathan Power’s FT article earlier this month:
Fanning the flames: “In principle, it is a moment that demands US leadership to convene and mobilise the region’s democracies”
Embedded in the article are Ms Flournoy’s references to China’s rising military expenditures, its growing assertiveness, coercive measures to enforce excessive maritime claims, expansive global infrastructure development strategy, modernised armed forces and multibillion-dollar state-directed campaign to develop (and steal) key emerging technologies. She adds:
“Its vessels have collided with foreign ships in the South China Sea (Ed, in 2014). Japan protests that its vessels re being harassed in the East China Sea. Chinese aircraft have encroached upon Taiwan, and Beijing has promulgated a new national security law for Hong Kong that seriously erodes its liberties”.
She then calls for deeper security co-operation among like-minded states, naming Japan, the US, India and Australia, urging these ‘major democracies’ and other countries who are anxious about Chinese intentions and capabilities, to treat China’s border clash with India as a clarion call and take steps to protect their common interests and values. If they do not, she continues, China will continue pushing boundaries, posing unacceptable risks to international order, ending: “In practice, however, that may have to wait for a new occupant in the White House”.
Another voice says: ‘The attack on China should stop’
Jonathan Power writes:
“The world is supposed to be pulling together to defeat the Coronavirus and to some extent it is. Earlier on Russia sent special equipment to the US and recently the US has sent some to Russia. China has aided Italy and Africa with doctors and equipment. Tiny Cuba, with its deep pool of doctors, has also helped Africa (detail here). Around the world there is a sense of “we are all in this together” and that this is a bigger problem than the ones the world has faced since World War 2.”
But President Donald Trump has suggested Chinese culpability for spreading the COVID-19, calling the virus “a Chinese virus” – and some Chinese senior officials publicly retorted.
Powers forecasts that the Coronavirus debate over who is right and who is wrong could become a watershed moment in the relationship between the US and China.
The World Health Organization has brought all the world’s countries together to discuss how to go forward now and – as Power continues – Trump’s representatives needed to say “Let’s sit down and with our best scientists discuss not who is to blame but how such diseases can be forestalled”. That is likely to bring a better result.
Power adds that despite Trump’s good-humoured meetings with Xi, “this antagonism is not a new development. There were three rounds of tariffs in 2018, and a fourth one in September last year. The most recent round targeted Chinese imports, from meat to musical instruments, with a 15% duty. He has refused to negotiate an extension of the nuclear weapons reduction agreement with Russia unless China (a relatively small nuclear power) is brought into the deal”.
Though both countries have an extreme superiority complex and think they are exceptional, unlike China, Power notes, the US has sought to prevent the emergence of a peer competitor, whether Western Europe, Russia or China, that could challenge its military dominance.
Fareed Zakaria in Foreign Affairs agrees: “Today’s China is a remarkably responsible nation on the geopolitical and military front. Beijing is now the second-largest funder of the United Nations and its peacekeeping work. It has deployed 2,500 peacekeepers, more than all the other permanent members of the Security Council combined.
It has not gone to war since 1979. It has not used lethal military force abroad since 1988. Nor has it funded or supported proxies or armed insurgents anywhere in the world since the early 1980s. That record of non-intervention is unique among the world’s great powers”. Powers comments: “For its part, the US has attempted regime change around the world 72 times”.
If Michèle Flournoy were to study the writings of Zakaria and Power, heeding the 16th century advice from Thomas Cranmer, to “read mark, learn and inwardly digest” – she might change course.
A Hockley Agro UK article asked if lockdown has permanently changed attitudes to British farming. It pointed out that when demand soars in a crisis and global supply chains are frustrated, having food available locally is of paramount importance. Locally grown food creates important economic opportunities, provides health benefits and helps to reduce environmental impact. Eating what is produced here in the UK is key to reducing food miles and avoiding unnecessary packaging. It ends:
“Producing food within our shores is vital to support the economy, help maintain high levels of animal welfare, control sustainability and assist in improving soil heath. To suggest an end to agriculture as an industry would mean an end to large agricultural employers and local family farms alike”.
Camilla Hodgson reports that the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned the UK would run out of food in just seven months if it relied solely on homegrown produce. Self-sufficiency in food has stagnated with government figures showing that Britain produced only 61% of its own food in 2017, a rate in long-term decline.
“The statistics show a concerning long-term decline in the UK’s self-sufficiency in food and there is a lot of potential for this to be reversed. And while we recognise the need for importing food which can only be produced in different climates, if we maximise on the food that we can produce well in the UK then that will deliver a whole host of economic, social and environmental benefits to the country. Home-grown food production must have the unwavering support of Government if we are to achieve this post-Brexit.”
Richard Harvey Owston, Rutland who founded Manor Farm Feeds in 1986, asks if the UK really wants to become totally dependent on imported food at a time when we are witnessing a worldwide trade war led by the power-hungry leaders of the major nations.
He fears that, although our politicians are paying lip service to the future support of food production, ‘the small print indicates otherwise’.
Mark Shapiro draws attention to an article by Alan Macleod reporting that – though the US economy is suffering – American arms manufacturers are thriving.
“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”.
This fear, expressed today by the FT’s editorial, will not be shared by some, who see globalisation as ”another version of colonialism or imperialism – with Amazons, Facebooks and Googles, Nikes and the garment industry in many aspects of their conduct as more acceptable looking British or Dutch East India companies” (reader’s comment).
Manila port ‘bursting at the seams’ in the Philippines on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Read more here.
Following an FT report of drops in rail freight and containerised exports from the UK of as much as 50 to 60% while imports are also declining, its editorial points out that supply chain disruptions and struggles to obtain medical supplies, have accelerated calls for countries and trading blocs to ensure they have sufficient capacity at home — prioritising resilience over producing goods where it is cheapest.
The US trade representative, last week hailed the end of “reflexive offshoring” (NY Times, log in) and in the EU Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, wants government grants, loans and direct intervention to build up European supply capacity.
The FT editorial points out that, in shifting manufacturing jobs out of rich countries and into poorer ones, globalisation reduced poverty in the developing world and prices in the rich ones.
But those working in these sweatshops (a small section of a sweatshop in Karnataka is shown above) still live in poverty and cramped conditions, working far from home in unhealthier conditions than the subsistence agriculture (Karnataka below) which was formerly their lot.
The low prices for their products in rich countries have encouraged a wasteful throwaway culture there, which has added to the waste mountains
The editorial also admits that millions in the ‘rich countries’ lost their jobs in the process, and lost the sense of pride and ownership people felt in their once thriving communities.
But the FT asserts that global supply chains and co-operation are a source of resilience, allowing countries to focus on their strengths and share expertise.
“Spreading people and factories around the world allows companies to guard against risks by diversifying”:
But it has also broken family circles and communities, increased deforestation and reduced the amount of land available for food production
“There will be higher prices and lost export markets”
But higher prices (due to higher wages) will mean a greater market for local goods and better tax revenues. A reduction in exports will lead to a great reduction in transport-related greenhouse gases.
“The direct cost to the taxpayer of subsidising domestic production . . . will make (economies) more fragile, not less”
But huge subsidies are currently given by government to foreign water, energy and transport utilities (including nuclear projects and fossil fuel producers) working in this country, to arms manufacturers and other exporters. That money could be redirected to domestic production which would reduce welfare payments and transport-related pollution.
It can be argued that a knockout blow is long overdue and that purposeful employment created by import substitution and Green New Deal projects might, in time, bring about an environmentally aware, low-crime, harmonious and employment-rich society.
COVID-19 bulletin 25: XR calls on government to adopt a climate-friendly economic plan in the recovery period
Worldwide media are reporting that socially distanced Extinction Rebellion climate activists placed more than 2,000 pairs of children’s shoes in rows across London’s Trafalgar Square on Monday.
The shoes were donated by people across the city and will be given to Shoe Aid following the action.
The activists are calling on the British government to stop bailing out carbon intensive industries that pollute the environment and adopt a climate-friendly economic plan in the recovery period following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) so children and young people aren’t left to face a deeper crisis.
Poppy Silk, a 19-year-old activist from Extinction Rebellion, which wants non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis, bringing starvation and social collapse, says:
“Many young people feel suffocated by fear of what is to come, and now with this pandemic, maybe others will start to understand our fear for the future. Even whilst healing from the pandemic, we must move towards a green transition to prevent future crises.”
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.