Category Archives: GIS Statements

The U.S. and China’s ‘free trade’ agendas

GiS Expert View by Henrique Schneider

“Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room,” said China’s President Xi Jinping. “Wind and rain may be kept outside, but so is light and air.” Mr. Xi’s words of warning were directed at the new president of the United States. Meanwhile in Washington, Donald Trump erected new barriers to free trade. Why does Communist China seem to embrace free trade while the capitalist U.S. resorts to protectionism? The answer is simple. In both countries trade, or its absence, is just an instrument of politics. China’s approach to trade is best described as mercantilism. Its government allows for some economic freedom within its borders.
However, it pushes and regulates exports and curbs imports. The more the country exports, the more money it accumulates and the more power it has.
China does allow for some internal trade. But it has a set of “strategic industries” that are ring-fenced by regulation. This regulation makes it almost impossible for foreigners to supply, invest or acquire any stake in them. Also, a large network of state-owned enterprises operates independently from China’s free-trading commitments …

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The U.S. and China’s ‘free trade’ agendas

25 years after Maastricht, the euro is worth rescuing

GIS Statement* by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

For the euro currency to thrive, the ECB must commit to protecting its value, as opposed to aiding politicians in their current budgetary troubles (source: dpa)


Europe is commemorating the inception of its common currency, the euro, a quarter of a century ago. The goal to establish it was set forth in the Maastricht Treaty, which was drafted in December 1991 and entered into force in 1993. The currency began its virtual existence in 1999, and euro bills and coins entered circulation in 2002. The anniversary is remembered, but not celebrated. The euro, created with great enthusiasm, is now widely perceived as a failure. In fact, the common currency was introduced not only for valid economic and business reasons. There was a political agenda attached to the project as well – to push forward the process of European integration and unification.

In the Maastricht agreement, conditions were set to guarantee the stability of the new currency and to make certain that it would enhance economic growth within the European Union. The supranational European Central Bank (ECB) was supposed to act independently and stay focused on ensuring monetary stability. Another crucial Maastricht criterion was that member states were to avoid budget deficits of more than 3 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP), and accumulated public debts in excess of 60 percent of their GDP.

That was the plan. However, there was also the political agenda of the “ever-closer union” and the “harmonization” mania. This led to misconstrued risk premiums for loans. Also, the critically needed program for weaker regions to increase their productivity, and a transition period before they fully entered the common currency system, were neglected. Under national currencies, countries restored their competitiveness through currency devaluation; under the euro, this avenue was closed to them. This resulted in financial signals that were misguiding. Business in southern Europe turned en masse to construction, financed with – thanks to the euro – comparatively cheap debt.

Tall bill for mistakes

The consequences were dire. A much larger disaster, however, was brought about by disregard for the deficit criteria. These were immediately flaunted by the two largest members of the community, the supposed stability guarantors Germany and France. Other governments took their cue from them and breaking the deficit ceilings became common practice.

The list of sins was expanded further when the eurozone’s entrance criteria were diluted to accept countries such as Greece. It was clear from the onset that some countries in the EU did not meet the requirements and never would. They cheated the system while the ECB, the European Commission and other member states looked the other way. Greece was the most striking case, but a few other states were in the same category.

In the new eurozone, states happily spent and accumulated debt. Politicians eschewed reform under the protective shield of baseless triple-A ratings on their burgeoning sovereign debt. Such fictions can continue only to a point; in 2010 a severe fiscal crisis hit. In many instances, the euro was blamed. It was an easy scapegoat.

The present policy of the ECB, of low to negative interest rates and “quantitative easing” (which consists of increasing the money supply and buying financial assets especially sovereign debt from banks) represents a complete breach of the rules and criteria of the ECB. This policy not merely debases the currency, it also erodes the public’s remaining trust in European institutions and, in consequence, the European Union.

How to rescue the euro

A grave mistake of the past was that not all eurozone criteria were correct. The pursuit of the “ever-closer union” and “harmonization” caused the architects of the euro zone to ignore the large regional differences in the real economy and economic behavior. Making matters worse, the proper criteria were given short shrift by many member states and the European Commission. Now the ECB has joined in the destructive process.

As the cures for the assumed failure of the euro are promoted, they again turn up to be the harmonization and the ever-closer union. It is said that what Europe needs to salvage its common currency is a common economic policy – which is rather difficult to accept, as a currency should serve the economy, not vice versa. In this bubble, the very same assumptions which led to undermining the euro are presented as the tools of its rescue. This is only a way of centralizing EU economies, nearly certainly making them more inefficient, and a script for arriving at a planned economy.

As a businessman, I appreciate the convenience of a common currency. It is hugely advantageous in trade inside the eurozone, as well as globally. As a means of exchange, saving and investment, the euro is beneficial to the entire European society and certainly worth maintaining. But this can work only if the political agenda, attached to the euro from the beginning, is dropped. A proper system requires a central bank committed to the value of the currency. It will also be necessary to allow some members of the eurozone to disengage in an orderly fashion and return to their national currencies.

The time is high for the technocrats to realize that Europe is successful in its rich, natural diversity, not in “harmonization” of an artificial, “ever-closer union.”


*GIS is a global intelligence service providing independent, analytical, fact-based reports from a team of experts around the world. We also provide bespoke geopolitical consultancy services to businesses to support their international investment decisions. Our clients have access to expert insights in the fields of geopolitics, economics, defence, security and energy. Our experts provide scenarios on significant geopolitical events and trends. They use their knowledge to analyze the big picture and provide valuable recommendations of what is likely to happen next, in a way which informs long-term decision-making. Our experts play active roles in top universities, think-tanks, intelligence services, business and as government advisors. They have a unique blend of backgrounds and experience to deliver the narrative and understanding of global developments. They will help you develop a complete understanding of international affairs because they identify the key players, their motivations and what really matters in a changing world. Our experts examine the challenges and opportunities in economies old and new, identify emerging politicians and analyse and appraise new threats in a fast-changing world. They offer new ideas, fresh perspectives and rigorous study.

Americans vote for change and for stability

GIS statement by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

Pence Trump Liechtenstein

The citizens of the United States have cast their votes and given their verdict after an extremely ugly campaign that took a strange turn as early as the primaries. The Democrats started almost immediately with two main candidates, which led to a less-than-impressive campaign for the nomination. The Republicans had many potential standard-bearers, but no favorite. This allowed outsider Donald Trump to win the nomination, even against the party establishment’s fierce opposition.

The electorate found little to like in either candidate – each had just two main points of attraction. For Hillary Clinton, the first was that she represented continuity of the existing political class, appealing to voters afraid of the unknown. For Mr. Trump, it was his status as the outsider, appealing to those who feel left out by system or dissatisfied with the state of politics. The second point, however, was rather negative: each was billed as the lesser of two evils. Most voters said they would cast their ballot for a candidate not because they agreed with his or her policies, but simply because the other candidate would be much worse.

The result was a campaign full of mudslinging. Ms. Clinton was portrayed as corrupt and Mr. Trump as an uncontrollable rogue. From a distance, it looked as if the U.S. was choosing between an unscrupulous insider and a riverboat gambler.

Both took populist positions, a phenomenon that democracies throughout the whole Western world are struggling with – including in the more established parties. So far, fortunately, institutions have been robust enough to hold back the worst consequences of this rise in populism.

Exaggerated reactions

In the end, the winner was Donald Trump. The Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. All of the pre-election prognoses proved drastically wrong.

The harsh anti-Trump reactions both within and without the U.S. are unfair, exaggerated and – especially when it comes to the financial markets – ridiculous. The prophesies of doom and gloom ignore quite a lot of fact.

Taking a dispassionate look at the situation, one sees that the difference between Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton is mainly one of style. Ms. Clinton holds to the center-leftist line of the Democratic Party establishment, while Mr. Trump represents the voters who oppose that line. But when it came to trade, for example, both offered protectionist policies.

The strategies to prevent Mr. Trump from winning backfired. The arrogant conclusion that mainly uneducated white males would vote for him was plain wrong. Stirring up fear before a vote is usually counterproductive, as was also the case with Brexit. Allegations that Russia supported the Trump campaign by hacking into the Clinton campaign’s e-mail accounts were never proven. Obviously, these accusations did not significantly affect the vote.

Responsibility and cooperation

The result boils down to one fact: voters were turned off by the mudslinging and wanted change. They sent a strong message. However, the vote to keep Republicans majorities in both houses of Congress is a call for a certain degree of stability.

The U.S. government’s executive branch is important, but not all-powerful. It is ensconced in a robust system of governance with sophisticated checks and balances. The Republican majority in the House and Senate will follow a responsible line and are not dependent on the president.

For Donald Trump, the world will also change once he enters the Oval Office in January. The real danger is that the media and political establishments around the world, frustrated by this result, might try to marginalise the democratically elected president of the United States. The American people have made their choice, and the only way to avoid negative results is to accept their decision and find constructive ways to work with Mr. Trump. An outsider needs support to perform his duties successfully, not antagonism.

Read the original GIS statement here ->
Americans vote for change and for stability


*GIS is a global intelligence service providing independent, analytical, fact-based reports from a team of experts around the world. We also provide bespoke geopolitical consultancy services to businesses to support their international investment decisions. Our clients have access to expert insights in the fields of geopolitics, economics, defence, security and energy. Our experts provide scenarios on significant geopolitical events and trends. They use their knowledge to analyse the big picture and provide valuable recommendations of what is likely to happen next, in a way which informs long-term decision-making. Our experts play active roles in top universities, think-tanks, intelligence services, business and as government advisors. They have a unique blend of backgrounds and experience to deliver the narrative and understanding of global developments. They will help you develop a complete understanding of international affairs because they identify the key players, their motivations and what really matters in a changing world. Our experts examine the challenges and opportunities in economies old and new, identify emerging politicians and analyse and appraise new threats in a fast-changing world. They offer new ideas, fresh perspectives and rigorous study.

In defense of referenda

GIS statement by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

Many well-meaning people around the world – especially those in the media and politics – have been shocked by three referenda that have not brought the results they had hoped for. The series started with Brexit. A slight majority in the United Kingdom voted, against the recommendation of their government and advice of European and world leaders, to exit the European Union.

In the second referendum, Hungarians voted to amend their constitution to block EU immigration settlement plans, against some rather strong requests from other European governments. The pressure included threats: Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Hungary should be “excluded” from the bloc. The government-sponsored proposal was overwhelmingly accepted by those who voted. However, the turnout of just 40 percent made the result void under Hungary’s constitution.

The third plebiscite resulted in the people of Colombia rejecting – by a tiny majority – a peace agreement that the government negotiated with FARC rebels.

referendum_colombia_farq

All three referenda were initiated by governments. The UK government wanted confirmation that the country should remain in the EU, while the Colombian government wanted its peace agreement sanctioned. Both failed.
Hungary’s case was different. The widely desired outcomes were for the proposals from the UK and Colombian governments to be approved, but for the Hungarian government’s proposal to be rejected. Just the contrary took place, although the Hungarian government failed to mobilize enough voters.
This has led many to question both the legitimacy of referenda in democracies and the system of direct democracy as such. Also, doubt has been cast on the people’s judgment when it comes to major issues.
It is true, as critics suggest, that in these three cases the governments’ main motive may have been to transfer responsibility for such decisions onto the people. However, the critics of referenda miss that the idea of direct democracy is not for governments to initiate such votes. Plebiscites usually bring excellent results if they are brought about by groups of concerned citizens. The problem in most Western democracies is that citizens are frustrated – and they are using these votes to voice their dissatisfaction.
A system of strong local autonomy and direct democracy using referenda initiated by citizens brings superior outcomes and normally shows the people’s sound judgment. Obviously, there must be a certain hurdle for such initiatives, such as a petition with a large number of authenticated signatures.
Switzerland has such a system, and it produces plenty of sensible decisions. For example, the Swiss voted by a big majority not to reduce time spent at work. They also rejected an initiative to increase the Swiss National Bank’s mandatory gold reserves.
In the United States, referenda do not play a role at the federal level. This reflects the fear of populism held by some of the framers of the constitution. They are also less necessary, because the main purpose of the constitution was to create a system of checks and balances and to provide for the protection of the freedom of the individual against the state.

Read the original GIS statement here ->
In defense of referenda


*GIS is a global intelligence service providing independent, analytical, fact-based reports from a team of experts around the world. We also provide bespoke geopolitical consultancy services to businesses to support their international investment decisions. Our clients have access to expert insights in the fields of geopolitics, economics, defense, security and energy. Our experts provide scenarios on significant geopolitical events and trends. They use their knowledge to analyze the big picture and provide valuable recommendations of what is likely to happen next, in a way which informs long-term decision-making. Our experts play active roles in top universities, think-tanks, intelligence services, business and as government advisors. They have a unique blend of backgrounds and experience to deliver the narrative and understanding of global developments. They will help you develop a complete understanding of international affairs because they identify the key players, their motivations and what really matters in a changing world. Our experts examine the challenges and opportunities in economies old and new, identify emerging politicians and analyze and appraise new threats in a fast-changing world. They offer new ideas, fresh perspectives and rigorous study.

Cheap money policy does not fool citizens

GIS Statement by Prince Michael von Liechtenstein

The socialist idea of a planned economy is gradually being made a reality by the monetary policies of central banks, such as the United States Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. The idea is also promoted by a considerable number of western economists and politicians. The conventional wisdom within that group is that economies are driven mainly by consumption. They blissfully ignore the importance of investment and savings – even of the kinds that help people set money aside for retirement.
The purported logic behind the banks’ current monetary policy is that extremely low to negative interest rates will discourage savings and boost consumption, fanning economic growth. This is superficial, short-term thinking from ideologically misguided people.
The policy, if successfully applied, would lead to an increase of the indebtedness of households in the affected countries. Indebted peoples tend to be less free than societies with savings, which give individuals freedom and independence. One is tempted to start suspecting that a hidden agenda might play a role here – a politically motivated desire to push private households deeper into debt in order to gain better control of consumption and to be able to centralize investments by institutions. This would amount to a triumph of economic planners over markets.

yellen-draghi-2016

Fortunately, people have not been responding as expected. Citizens understand mathematics and they know that they need a financial cushion in hard times, and for retirement. They are aware that low to negative interest rates are eroding their financial reserves and the value of their nest eggs and retirement entitlements. Those negative effects are exacerbated by planned inflation. Inflation is biting already, but that is obscured by statistics that do not reflect the purchasing structure of a typical middle class household. Rightfully, people worry of being impoverished in their old age.
And they are acting on their concerns. Demonstrably, people in the countries with extremely low to negative interest rates have been saving more. They are bucking the trend that many politicians and central banks are irresponsibly trying to spawn.
The savings rate (the ratio of the disposable income that private households put aside as reserves) increased in Sweden from some 5 percent in 2006 to more than 16 percent in 2016. In Denmark during the same period, it shot up from a negative rate to more than 8 percent, and it has remained stable in Germany at around 10 percent. Even the U.S., normally not a savings champion, has seen a stable savings rate of some 5 percent. Switzerland, on the other hand, long a nation of big savers, increased its savings rate during that decade from about 15 percent to some 20 percent.
A danger exists that once the misguided monetary policy fails, as it must, some of the money-hungry governments will then try to confiscate large chunks of these savings. They also may be wiped out by inflation as soon as the huge money supplies created by central banks hit the economies.

Read the original GIS statement here ->
Cheap money policy does not fool citizens


*GIS is a global intelligence service providing independent, analytical, fact-based reports from a team of experts around the world. We also provide bespoke geopolitical consultancy services to businesses to support their international investment decisions. Our clients have access to expert insights in the fields of geopolitics, economics, defense, security and energy. Our experts provide scenarios on significant geopolitical events and trends. They use their knowledge to analyze the big picture and provide valuable recommendations of what is likely to happen next, in a way which informs long-term decision-making. Our experts play active roles in top universities, think-tanks, intelligence services, business and as government advisors. They have a unique blend of backgrounds and experience to deliver the narrative and understanding of global developments. They will help you develop a complete understanding of international affairs because they identify the key players, their motivations and what really matters in a changing world. Our experts examine the challenges and opportunities in economies old and new, identify emerging politicians and analyze and appraise new threats in a fast-changing world. They offer new ideas, fresh perspectives and rigorous study.