ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 27/07/2018

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Financial Times – Cecilia Malmström / The EU will stand up for rules-based trade

  • The international trading order is confronting its deepest crisis to date. Some now believe it is time to pull the plug on 70 years of trade diplomacy and pursue trade goals by other means. If this happens, it will be the public that takes the hit.
  • But the World Trade Organization has been unable to address ongoing problems, such as growing state involvement in trade, market-distorting subsidies and other uncompetitive behavior. It has been paralyzed by conflicting interests and stiff procedures.
  • First, the blockage of the WTO appellate body should be addressed by introducing changes to make the dispute settlement system work better. Second, the WTO is in need of tools to deal with uncompetitive and unfair behavior quickly. Third, the WTO’s decision-making and negotiating processes must be improved.
  • In the future, WTO members should be free to move at different speeds and to integrate and meet criteria at different times, allowing for progress in key areas.

The Guardian – Timothy Garton Ash / A humiliating Brexit deal risks a descent into Weimar Britain

  • Over the next year or two – especially if the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal – we may witness the emergence of a British society riven by domestic divisions and economic difficulties, let down by its ruling classes, fetid with humiliation and resentment. Any such country is a danger both to itself and to its neighbors.
  • Such a Britain could also arrive more slowly, if the other 27 member states of the EU impose a humiliating divorce deal – a milder, peacetime, bureaucratic version of the punitive Versailles treaty imposed on Germany after the first world war.
  • Comparisons between today’s UK and Weimar Germany are of course an exaggeration. But we should not underestimate the dangers for the whole of Europe that flow from Brexit – especially a mishandled Brexit.
  • To avert the worst possible outcome, the UK will need pragmatic realism, a credible democratic process, and robust civility. And European leaders should be firm, but not punitive. It is imperative for them to think strategically about how the cross-Channel relationship might look in five to 10 years’ time – which necessarily means thinking about how the EU itself will then look.

The Economist / Spain’s democracy is about to turn 40. How well has it worn?

  • The 1978 Spanish Constitution has helped to bring Spain the best years since its Golden Age in the 16th and 17th centuries. Spain has managed to transform itself into a stable and prosperous democracy. The past decade has been difficult, but a new, more outward-looking, higher-value Spanish economy is emerging.
  • However, Spain is suffering “a crisis in the governance of representative democracy”, according to former Prime Minister Felipe González. This has given rise to “the politics of rancor”. The indignation has been at its most virulent in Catalonia, and former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy paid little attention to it.
  • Continuing political deadlock would come at great cost. Spain needs further reforms. It suffers from skills mismatches, a flawed education system, a generation gap and an ageing population. Its public administration, at all levels, is marred by cronyism and inefficiency. Above all, Spanish politicians must deal with Catalan separatism.
  • Catalonia poses questions that matter for Europe as well as for Spain. It represents a clash of two conceptions of democracy. The one defended by former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont is plebiscitarian and based on popular mobilization, whereas Spain’s constitutionalist politicians defend a representative democracy that is anchored in the rule of law and respects minority rights.
  • International law recognizes a right to self-determination only in cases of colonization, invasion or gross denial of human rights. None of these applies in Catalonia.

European Council on Foreign Relations – Julien Barnes-Dacey / Mad maximalism: The fight to dislodge Iran from Syria

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s international enemies no longer seriously entertain the idea of ousting him; they have de facto accepted that he will remain in power. The US government and its Middle Eastern allies now focus on ridding Syria of Iranian forces.
  • But the pursuit of maximalist ambitions is only likely to meet with an equally uncompromising response from Tehran and, eventually, wider conflict. This would perhaps create new space for the Islamic State group (ISIS).
  • The US and Israeli approach is fundamentally flawed: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Assad are neither willing nor able to force a significant Iranian exit from Syria. These countries share an ongoing desire to resist perceived US attempts to shape the regional order. And, in any case, both Russia and Assad lack the resources to remove entrenched Iranian forces.
  • For the US and Israel, core security interests do not require that Syria be cleared of every last Iranian. Instead, they require a way to sufficiently curtail Iran’s presence, particularly along Israel’s immediate border. Europeans should do more to support this incremental track.

Bloomberg – Shannon K. O’Neil / The coming US-Mexico blow-up

  • Initial niceties between the Trump Administration and Mexico’s President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador paper over deep chasms in priorities, positions and domestic politics. A blow-up may not be far away.
  • López Obrador has made clear that the solutions to bilateral challenges of migration, security and commerce depend on Mexico’s economic advancement. But he is likely to be turned down or ignored on the economic issues that matter most to him.
  • Likewise, López Obrador is unlikely to be the Nafta partner Trump is looking for. There is also little common ground on Central American migration. Diplomatically, cooperation on an imploding Venezuela (let alone Nicaragua or Cuba) is also about to fade.
  • As the 2020 elections approach, Trump will be tempted once again to demonize Mexico. With his own base to feed, López Obrador will be hard pressed not to respond in kind.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces. 

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