Massive police mobilization in Biarritz, France as G7 summit opens
24 August 2019
In the lead-up to this weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz, a seaside resort in southwestern France, the Macron administration has organized a massive mobilization of police, gendarmes and soldiers. The heavily armed forces are tasked with violently repressing any signs of popular opposition to the policies of the assembled G7 governments, utilizing the anti-democratic powers created under the state of emergency from 2015-2017 and mobilized against the “yellow vests”.
Parliament voted for a budget of 36.4 million euros for the summit’s security measures. In total, 13,200 police and gendarmes are being mobilized to patrol the streets. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced that they would be supported by “military forces, which will carry out counter-terrorism missions and protect our air and sea approaches.”
The Macron government has turned the city into a fortress. According to Le Monde, “The army was deployed discreetly in the interior of the Basque Country, particularly on the heights on the lookout for possible drones, and a navy a frigate is in position offshore. More than 400 firefighters and 13 mobile emergency and resuscitation teams are also planned in the system.”
Two security perimeters have been put in place with a so-called “enhanced security” zone located in the heart of the city, closed to vehicles and non-accredited pedestrians. In a so-called “protection” zone, which is a little wider, only cars with a specific sign and pedestrians with a badge are allowed to enter.
The authoritarian character of Macron’s police mobilization was underscored yesterday with the publication of a video by Radio France and France Info, who joined a police patrol with two officers in Biarritz. The police stop a van that has two pieces of paper stuck to its side door, which read: “The French state put us in concentration camps. Where are the grandeur and honour of France, Mr. Macron?”
After stopping the vehicle, one of the police officers pulls out his gun and points it at the driver, demanding that he get out of the vehicle. The two occupants of the van are arrested and taken to the police station, where police tell them that references to “concentration camps” are “shocking”. and that “now is not the time to be using such strong terms.” The two were later released without any charges.
During his trip to Biarritz, Castaner announced, “We will not tolerate any disorder. If they occur, we will respond.” He said that the G7 faces potentially “major threats”, referring to “violent individuals whom I do not confuse with peaceful demonstrators”. He also referred to the “terrorist threat” for which “an international summit can be a target”, and then admitted that there was currently “no specific threat reported.”
In the context of demonstrations in Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Algeria, Sudan and the “yellow vests”, Macron declared in a press conference on Tuesday that the summit would be a means to combat inequality, an official theme of the summit itself. This is as absurd as saying that the bloody Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el Sisi, who has been invited to Biarritz, is fighting for democracy. All the leaders at the summit are pursuing a policy of austerity, and tax cuts for the rich, and implementing a massive build-up of police powers to repress opposition in the working class.
The tax gifts made by former banker Macron helped Bernard Arnault to become the second largest billionaire on the planet with a wealth of $104 billion (US), roughly four percent of the French annual economic output.
The G7 summit is taking place under conditions of the bankruptcy of capitalism: the global economic slowdown, the Sino-American trade war, Washington’s accelerating drive for war against Iran and political instability linked to Brexit. Already in 2018, the seven deeply divided American, Japanese, German, British, French, Italian and Canadian leaders of the G7 were unable to agree on a joint declaration. In fact, they agree above all on the need for austerity and escalating police repression.
Castaner absurdly declared that “there is no question of preventing the free and non-violent expression of opinions”, a statement that was immediately disproven by the video of protesters being rounded up for displaying a flyer on a van.
Several demonstrations against the G7 have been planned. More than 12,000 people are expected to attend a counter-summit near the French-Spanish border, scheduled from Monday, August 19 to Sunday, August 25 in Urrugne, Hendaye and Irun (Spain). It is bringing together more than 80 organizations, including anti-globalization activists, associations, trade unions, yellow vests and political parties.
A call for “yellow vests” on social media calls for a demonstration against “the great and powerful of this world who defend an ultraliberal economy and give us nothing.”
This week, authorities have arrested at least five people. Media reports claim that some of them “belong to the Black Bloc movement” and are reportedly known to the intelligence services. They were allegedly arrested following calls on social networks to attack a “residence” for gendarmes at the G7 summit in Biarritz. Four of them have been released; one is still in police custody for “provocation involving the commission of a crime by electronic means.”
The Macron administration also expelled a German Dreyeckland Radio journalist and banned him from staying in France until the day after the G7 summit in Biarritz. The journalist, Luc, was arrested a week ago in the Côte-d’Or, in eastern France and deported to Germany.
In an interview with Dreyeckland, Luc explained: “After a roadside check, I was arrested and spent almost 24 hours in a cell prior to expulsion because I was designated as a ‘leftist activist’, although initially I was not told the reason for my arrest. They just mentioned something about the right of residence.”
He added that the French police “told me that I was identified a year and a half ago in Bure, near the nuclear waste site where, for the first time, the police had identified me. But they also said that they suspected me of having committed crimes at the G20 in Hamburg (in the summer of 2017), but without proof. Investigations continue.”
AFTER departing early from the G7 summit in Quebec for Singapore, President Donald Trump called on US representatives not to endorse the joint communique put out by the heads of the Group of Seven industrialised nations.
Trump made the statement on Twitter following ‘false statements’ made by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The US President insisted that Trudeau’s remarks that Canada would not be pushed around ‘were very dishonest and weak’. ‘Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our US Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the US Market!’ the US president further stated.
The Canadian prime minister issued a statement following Trump’s twitter message, insisting that Trudeau said nothing at the G7 summit that he had not told Trump in person. Trump’s statement from aboard Air Force One presidential aircraft en route to Singapore – where he is to hold a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – came just minutes after the publication of a joint communique that had been approved by the other G7 leaders.
Earlier, Trudeau had insisted in a press briefing that Trump’s decision to invoke national security to justify US tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum was ‘insulting’ to Canadian veterans who had stood by their US allies in conflicts dating back to World War I. ‘Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will also not be pushed around’, he emphasised, further adding that he had told Trump ‘it would be with regret but it would be with absolute clarity and firmness that we move forward with retaliatory measures on July 1, applying equivalent tariffs to the ones that the Americans have unjustly applied to us.’
WESTERN BOSSES ALLIANCE BREAKS APART AT QUEBEC G7 SUMMIT
THE G7 summit has ended in tantrums, with US President Donald Trump lashing out at Canada’s Trudeau, who was hosting the gathering. Trump from his jet tweeted a bombshell, that he had instructed his representatives at the Quebec G7 to withdraw support from the G7’s final statement. He accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of acting ‘meek and mild’ during meetings, only to attack the US at a news conference.
Trudeau had described as ‘insulting’ Trump’s decision to invoke national security to justify tariffs.
Differences over the US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports were papered over in the joint communique that advocated a ‘rules-based trading system’, only for Trudeau to then vow to press ahead with retaliatory tariffs against the US on 1 July.`
He said in Trump’s absence: ‘Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will also not be pushed around.’ Trump responded that he had instructed US officials ‘not to endorse the communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles’, adding that Canada is ‘charging massive tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies’.
In the original communique, the group of major industrial nations – Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan and Germany – had agreed on the need for ‘free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade’ and the importance of fighting protectionism.
On Russia, there was a joint demand that Moscow ‘cease with its destabilising behaviour’ and withdraw its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This has now all gone up in smoke!
The western capitalist world is now poised to tear itself apart with a trade war, at the same time as a new worldwide financial crisis is developing … Russia was suspended from the G7 group – then called the G8 – in 2014.
On Friday, Trump made a surprise call for Moscow to be readmitted but German Chancellor Angela Merkel said other members were against the idea.
If any state is to be driven to the wall, Trump is determined that it will not be the USA.
His tactic is to work for a modern version of the Stalin-Hitler pact, under which Hitler [was] able to tackle his western rivals, as a prelude to his main task which was always the elimination of Bolshevism. Trump wants a deal with Russia and even North Korea in order to settle accounts with the US’ new rivals in the G6.
Once that is done, then the hunger to possess the vast riches of Great Russia will prove to be irresistible. In the face of the growing trade war and the military adventures of the Western powers the workers of the world have a clear role to play.
In an unprecedented event, the G7 talks at Charlevoix in Quebec broke down Saturday, amid bitter recriminations and threats of trade war measures between countries at the heart of the world economy. Insoluble conflicts erupted over Washington’s threats to impose tariff barriers on billions of dollars of imports from the European Union (EU), Canada and Mexico.
The lead-up to the conference had been marked by acrimony, with French President Emmanuel Macron rhetorically proposing to sign a “6 country agreement”, excluding the United States. Photos emerged from the summit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaning over a table, glaring at Trump, who left the summit early, skipping talks on climate change.
The summit issued a final communiqué papering over the conflicts, as is usual in G7 summits, condemning protectionism but making a few criticisms of the World Trade Organization in line with US complaints. The US was expected to sign, but Trump, after listening to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s post summit press conference while en route to Singapore for a summit with North Korean President Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un is not president, but chairman of the North Korean parliament’s State Affairs Commission; in practice a more powerful position than president.
, fired off a volley of tweets that signaled a comprehensive breakdown of the G7 talks.
After Trudeau said that the communiqué criticized protectionism and that Canada would maintain its $16 billion retaliatory tariffs on US goods, the biggest Canadian tariffs since World War II, Trump hurled invective at Trudeau, warning that he “will not allow other countries” to impose tariffs. He accused what are nominally the closest US allies of having targeted the US for “Trade Abuse for many decades—and that is long enough.”
In another tweet, the US president threatened a major escalation of trade war measures with tariffs on auto imports and announced the breakdown of talks: “Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our US Reps not to endorse the Communiqué as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the US market!”
This is the first time since G7 summits began in 1975—originally as the G5 with the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain and France—that all the heads of state could not agree on a communiqué.
What is unfolding is a historic collapse of diplomatic and economic relations between the major imperialist powers. For the three quarters of a century since World War II, a broad consensus existed internationally in the ruling class that the trade wars of the 1930s Great Depression played a major role in triggering that war, and that trade wars should be avoided at all costs. This consensus has now broken down.
Explosive conflict and uncertainty dominate the world economy. The United States, the EU and Canada are preparing tariffs impacting untold billions of dollars in goods and threatening tens of millions of jobs worldwide. As the remarks of Trudeau and Trump show, US tariff threats are setting into motion an escalatory spiral of tariffs and counter-tariffs with potentially devastating consequences.
The collapse of the G7 talks cannot be explained by the personal peculiarities of Donald Trump. Rather, this historical milestone is an expression of US imperialism’s desperate attempts to resolve insoluble contradictions of world capitalism. Not only Trump, but prominent Democrats and large sections of the European media and ruling elite are all recklessly calling for trade war measures against their rivals.
Analyzing US imperialist policy in 1929, the year before the eruption of the Great Depression, Leon Trotsky warned: “In the period of crisis, the hegemony of the United States will operate more completely, more openly, and more ruthlessly than in the period of boom. The United States will seek to overcome and extricate herself from her difficulties and maladies primarily at the expense of Europe, regardless of whether this occurs in Asia, Canada, South America, Australia or Europe itself, whether this takes place peacefully or through war.”
The G7 summits were launched to manage conflicts between the major powers as the industrial and economic dominance established by US imperialism in World War II rapidly eroded, and after Washington ended dollar-gold convertibility in 1971. Still unable to catch up to its European and international competitors, the United States has for decades posted ever-larger trade deficits with rivals in Europe and Asia.
After the Stalinist bureaucracy dissolved the Soviet Union in 1991, lifting the main obstacle to US-led neo-colonial wars, Washington tried to counterbalance its economic weakness by resort to its vast military superiority.
Trump’s election and his denunciations of “trade abuse” of the United States by Europe, Japan and Canada marks a new stage in the crisis of world capitalism. Bitter US-EU divisions are growing not only over trade, but over EU opposition to the US policy of threatening Iran with war by ending the Iranian nuclear deal. After decades of economic crisis and neo-colonial war, the danger is rapidly emerging of a 1930s-style disintegration of the world economy into rival trading blocs and, as in that decade, the eruption of military conflict between them.
The contradictions of world capitalism identified as the causes of world war by the great Marxists of the 20th century—between international economy and the nation state system, and between socialized production and private appropriation of profits—are exploding to the fore today.
The European powers have responded to Trump with stepped-up threats of retaliatory measures. Following the summit, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on the European powers to respond “together” in order to defend their “interests even more offensively.”
Historically, trade war has been a precursor to military conflict. Prior to the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron responded angrily to Trump’s threatened sanctions, declaring, “This decision is not only unlawful but it is a mistake in many respects. Economic nationalism leads to war. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s.”
European Union: Tusk pleads for Trump to end trade war with warning it will turn into a ‘hot war’: here.
The only viable response to the growing threat of trade and military war is the mobilization of the working class internationally in struggle against capitalism and the danger of war. As strikes and class struggle explode around the world—among teachers in the United States, metalworkers in Germany and Turkey, and the broad movement of workers against Macron’s austerity policies in France—the social force that can lead this opposition is coming to the fore. The turn now is to the building of an international, socialist anti-war movement based on the working class.
TRADING BARBS President Donald Trump blasted the European Union and Canada Monday, tweeting that “we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on trade anymore.” The tirade came in the wake of a contentious G-7 meeting, which ended with the release a communique on trade that Trump refused to support. Trump’s new antagonist is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who White House advisers lashed Sunday, taking their lead from Trump who a day earlier called him “very dishonest and weak.” [Reuters]
Recriminations, threats between US and allies continue after collapse of G7 summit: here.
TRUMP CALLS EU ‘FOE’ OF AMERICA After a tumultuous NATO summit last week and massive protests against him in the U.K., Trump used an interview with “Face The Nation” to declare the European Union a “foe.” Germany reacted to the claim by warning Europe it can no longer fully rely on the U.S. as an ally. [HuffPost]
The United States went ahead on Friday with the imposition of 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, with the threat of additional tariffs in the future. The decision by the Trump Administration to launch a trade war between the world’s two largest economies will contribute to the already growing tensions and danger of military conflict in the Asia-Pacific region: here.
IVANKA SPARED TARIFFS Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods conveniently don’t touch products used for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, which — of course — are made in China. [HuffPost]
After tariff measures against China. Trump threatens to escalate trade war with Europe: here.
‘STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE MEDIA AND DO YOUR JOB’ State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, formerly of Fox News, sent a tweet from her official account bashing CNN for not covering a photo-op [at the Trump-Kim summit] in Singapore — that was closed to the press. [HuffPost]
TRUMP WANTS TO BLOW UP WTO A leaked draft of a Trump administration bill, reportedly ordered by the president, would see America withdraw from the World Trade Organization, giving Trump unlimited power to raise U.S. tariffs at will — without congressional consent. [Axios]
The European Union has warned it will impose tariffs on up to $300 billion worth of US exports if the Trump administration goes ahead with its threat to levy tariffs on imports of auto products: here.
TRUMP’S TARIFFS ARE ‘OPENING FIRE’ China has warned Trump that the United States is “opening fire” on the world with his trade tariffs, and promised to respond in kind the instant U.S. measures go into effect. [Reuters]
The deal on trade struck between US President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in talks held in Washington on Wednesday does not signify an end to the conflict between the US and the European Union. Rather, it is a manoeuvre by Washington in the ongoing and deepening global trade conflict. It is particularly aimed at strengthening the US in its battle against China by offering the EU some limited concessions: here.
THE MYTH OF FREE TRADE Trump’s tariff war is the final act of a broken system that was already coming apart. [HuffPost]
While the main focus of the trade war launched by the Trump administration is directed against China—labelled by the US military and intelligence apparatus as a “strategic competitor”—it is stepping up pressure against supposed “strategic allies”: here.
This weekend’s summit of the G7 is the most contentious meeting in the body’s forty-three-year history. It has revealed deep and growing fissures between the United States and its European allies.
Press reports have indicated that the summit may conclude without the customary communique after acrimonious public exchanges between US President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, European officials and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
As late as Thursday, Trump was reported to have considered boycotting the summit altogether, and the administration subsequently announced that the president would leave early.
Looming over the summit was Trump’s June 1 decision to impose sweeping tariffs of up to 25 percent on steel and aluminum imports from the EU and other countries. Both the EU and Canada have made clear they intend to take retaliatory measures, raising the possibility of a full-scale trade war between the United States and its nominal allies.
The bitter character of the divisions between the United States and its allies was made clear in a series of statements by Macron, who declared Thursday on Twitter: “The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be. Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”
Macron subsequently told reporters, “The six countries of the G7 without the United States are a bigger market taken together than the American market.” He added, “There will be no world hegemony if we know how to organize ourselves. And we don’t want there to be one.”
Trudeau echoed these sentiments, declaring “We are going to defend our industries and our workers” and, in a none-too-subtle threat, “show the U.S. president that his unacceptable actions are hurting his own citizens.”
At the same time, Trump has opened the prospect of cooling off the United States’ two other major geopolitical conflict areas: with North Korea, including a US-North Korean summit scheduled in Singapore immediately after the conclusion of the G7, and with Russia, to which Trump held out the prospect of regaining membership in the G7 after it was ejected in 2014.
However, as with the fractured geopolitics of the 1930s, the “deals” offered by Trump to one or another country are merely the prelude to military conflict. War is on the horizon, though it is not yet clear between whom.
While the election of Trump and his “America First” nationalist economic policy has exacerbated tensions between the US and Europe, the increasingly fractured state of global geopolitics is bound up with much deeper processes.
With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the American ruling class declared that it would not tolerate any competitor to its global hegemony. Using its military power to offset its economic decline, the United States embarked upon a quarter century of wars in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Now these wars are metastasizing into “great-power conflict”, as the Pentagon declared late last year, involving Russia, China, or even the European powers themselves. As Trump administration officials have repeatedly made clear, the United States trade war policies are an integral component of this strategy of “great-power conflict.”
With the American president barreling into a full-scale trade war, the response of Trump’s opposition party, the Democrats, has not been to denounce protectionism, but to press for its more aggressive application to Russia and China. After Trump this week announced moves to reduce trade restrictions on the Chinese technology company ZTE, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared, “China is eating our lunch, and this president is serving it up to them.” Trade war, once treated as an abhorrent mistake and prelude to war that must never be repeated, has been accepted as a fact of 21st-century capitalism.
Behind the scenes, there is talk of new geopolitical alignments to challenge the United States. Writing in the National Interest, former Reagan administration advisor Doug Bandow noted, “Until now the Europeans have shown no inclination that they will make the necessary sacrifices to seriously challenge the United States.” But if the US’s allies “take a big step into a new future… this G-7 Summit could be the start of a serious allied challenge to Washington’s leadership.”
Such a geopolitical realignment would have vast consequences for the international order, and for political life in every country. There is no peaceful means toward such a reorientation of the geopolitical and diplomatic relations that have governed world politics for nearly three quarters of a century.
As the World Socialist Web Sitewarned last year, “Anyone who asserted that a coalition of these powers will emerge to stabilize world capitalism, and block the emergence of large-scale trade war and military conflict, would be placing heavy bets against history.” The demands by the European powers for an “independent” foreign policy are accompanied by calls for nuclear rearmament, police state measures, and anti-working-class austerity. They are all seeking to leverage their expanded military power to advance their own imperialist interests—either in alliance with, or possibly against, the United States.
As in the 1930s, with its trade wars, rapid fire-peace treaties, small-scale wars and annexations, international geopolitics is entering an increasingly feverish phase. Treaties are signed, then broken, new alliances are made, borders are put up, and, perhaps most importantly, all the powers are rearming to the teeth.
In this immensely dangerous situation, the working class must seek to articulate its own program and perspective. As Leon Trotsky, the founder of the Fourth International, put it, the task is to follow “not the war map but the map of the class struggle.”
The reemergence of a global movement of the working class, expressed in an international strike wave of workers on every continent and in every industry, provides the objective basis for a renewed international movement against war and for socialism.
PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, “US Tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!
Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!
In what it described as a “measured and proportionate response” to steel and aluminum import tariffs announced a week ago by the US against Mexico, Canada and the European Union, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto imposed tariffs on some 71 products that Mexico currently imports from the United States: here.
The division that opened up at last week’s G7 finance ministers’ meeting, between the United States and the other six major economies, is set to widen at the two-day leaders’ summit starting tomorrow in Quebec, Canada.
The European Union (EU) is pushing ahead with retaliatory tariffs following the Trump administration’s refusal to grant it a permanent exemption from steel and aluminium tariffs imposed on “national security” grounds.
Following the finance ministers’ meeting, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire characterised the G7 as the “G6 plus one.” This description is becoming more than a rhetorical flourish as Canada, the EU and Japan seek to coordinate their response to the US.
Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters on Tuesday: “Japan and the EU will team up on this issue and call on cooperation from other countries.”
The European Commission (EC) said yesterday it would proceed with plans to impose tariffs on €2.8 billion worth of goods in accordance with a list drawn up when the US tariffs were first announced in March. The US has warned that European steel and aluminium tariffs would be met by further measures.
Jyrki Katainen, the EC vice-president with responsibility for trade, said Brussels had received “full support” for counter-measures against the US. “We want to defend our industries and our legitimate interests.”
Under EU rules, the retaliation plans will go to governments for review. Unless opposed by a weighted majority of members, measures are expected to be in force by next month.
British Trade Minister Liam Fox told parliament earlier this week the EU should have been exempted from the “unjustified measures on steel and aluminium.” Britain would continue to make this case at the highest level “in concert with the EU.”
Fox said it was “right to seek to defend our domestic industries from both the direct and indirect impact of these US tariffs.” The response had to be “measured and proportionate.” It was “important that the UK and EU work within the boundaries of the rules-based international trading system.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will chair the summit, predicted some “very direct conversations,” calling the US tariffs “insulting.” Canada and the EU have both announced formal action at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the US measures.
Together with Canada, Mexico is involved in talks with the US over the renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mexico has imposed tariffs on US imports, mainly food products, in retaliation against the tariff measures.
This brought a warning from Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University trade expert, who told the Financial Times an “open trade war” had erupted in the “backyard of the US” with “potentially dire consequences for the future of NAFTA.”
The US is seeking to split Canada and Mexico in the negotiations. Larry Kudlow, one of Trump’s economic advisers, said the administration favoured such a “shift.” Canada and Mexico were “different countries”, needing different deals.
The main EU negotiating ploy over steel has been to pledge common action with the US against over-capacity in China. Last November, ministers at a G20 meeting agreed to implement measures to tackle this question. But according to a Wall Street Journal report, the Trump administration has declared that multilateral initiatives will not solve the problem. While the US would remain “fully engaged”, it would not pull back from unilateral measures.
The EU’s perspective is based on the belief that somehow the US can be pushed back by pointing out that its actions are inimical to the global trade and economic order that it constructed in the post-war period.
Such conceptions, however, ignore the fundamental tendencies of development and the speed with which they are unfolding.
A year ago, at the corresponding meetings of the G7 and other international economic bodies, the conflict was over words: in particular the US refusal to include commitments to “resist protectionism” in official statements.
Twelve months on, the US is engaged in trade conflicts on multiple fronts, both against its post-war “allies” and China, which it considers the major threat to its continued global economic, geo-strategic and military dominance.
There are objection in some US quarters that the steel and aluminium tariffs, imposed on “national security” grounds under section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, should not be invoked against American “allies”. This has not resulted in any pulling back by the Trump administration. Rather, it has ordered an “investigation” into the auto industry under section 232—a major blow directed against Germany.
Another key issue is the unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran deal, which was brokered with the involvement of the major European powers. The US has threatened that if European companies continue to trade with Iran they will face economic and financial sanctions imposed by Washington.
Any imposition of sanctions threatens to jeopardise billions of dollars’ worth of European trade and investment deals, and the operations of the Society for Worldwide International Bank Telecommunication, known as Swift. The company, owned by 2,400 banks and financial institutions, is at the centre of the global network that facilitates cross-border financial transactions.
The US is able to exert tremendous pressure, not only due to the size of the US market but because of the dollar’s role as the major global currency.
The action against the European powers has been accompanied by trade war measures against China under section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. The US is expected to impose tariffs against $50 billion worth of Chinese goods on June 15, followed by a series of restrictions at the end of the month.
China is reported to have offered to lift its imports of US agricultural and energy products by $70 billion a year, in order to partially meet Washington’s demand to reduce its trade surplus with the US by $200 billion. But Beijing has made this concession conditional on the lifting of the tariff threat against it, a demand Trump administration sources called as a “non-starter.”
For Washington, the essential issue with China is not the trade deficit. The US is demanding that its emerging rival cease fostering high-tech development under the “Made in China 2025” plan, and essentially submit to being an economic semi-colony of the US.
Appeals to the US not to wreck the post-war order are destined to fall on deaf ears. This is not because of the particular proclivities of the Trump administration. There is a growing view in US ruling circles that the very system it created is the chief cause of American capitalism’s economic decline vis-a-vis its historic economic rivals in Europe and a new competitor in China.
The shift in US orientation did not begin with Trump. It was initiated under the Obama administration. Obama’s trade policies were not based on multilateralism but sought to preserve American dominance by placing the US at the centre of global economic and financial networks.
While it has suffered a major economic decline, the US still has two crucial weapons in its hands: control of the dollar as the foundation of the global financial system and its overwhelming military might. It intends to use both in the coming battles as the splits and divisions, now openly on display in the G7, intensify.
A year after the launch of a US-led initiative to lift millions out of poverty and hunger in Africa, we examine the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The alliance was formed at the 2012 G8 summit led by the United States. Its stated goal was to reduce hunger and lift 50 million Africans out of poverty over the next decade. To discuss the issue in more detail on Inside Story Americas, presenter Shihab Rattansi is joined by guests: Raj Patel, a writer.
So why does the British government persist in its support of schemes that are precisely about rolling out this form of corporatised agriculture? Schemes such as the G7’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which despite its name is all about pushing policy reforms to expand industrial agriculture and attract private investments.
“Tell your government to stop helping big corporations coming to Tanzania and profiting from small-scale farmers in order to build their corporate empires,” was just one of Janet Moro’s impassioned messages for British people.
SAT’s focus on organic farming techniques that use only locally available resources means farmers are entirely self-sufficient and the soils and local environment are protected.
The results, in terms of increased yields, have been outstanding too. Farmers such as Hadije Kibwana explained that since attending Janet’s training, her vegetable crop yields have increased so significantly that she now has a surplus to sell in the local market. With her profits she has been able to start the building works for a new house.
It is success stories like Hadije’s which have driven the rapidly growing demand for SAT’s courses. Word has spread so far that farmers from as far afield as Burundi and Kenya are now requesting Janet’s training.
Her newly opened residential training centre is able to accommodate large groups of farmers who come for week-long training programmes in various elements of organic agricultural practices.
It’s not just SAT — there are other projects across the country where small-scale farmers are rejecting synthetic inputs and mechanised production methods. Chololo Ecovillage in Dodoma, a particularly dry part of Tanzania, is another such example. Between 2011 and 2014 farmers have more than doubled their crop yields following the adoption of techniques such as crop rotation, intercropping and open pollinated breeding for improved seeds.
The results speak clearly: Tanzanian farmers do not need schemes like the G7’s New Alliance to improve their yields and continue to feed the world’s population.
This argument is all the more convincing because these farmers aren’t driven by an inherently anti-corporate agenda, they simply want to see their produce flourish.
And what increases yields the fastest involves utilising local natural resources, rather than purchasing foreign synthetic inputs and technologies. It is clear that the future of our food systems rests on ensuring small-scale farmers — not corporations — are the ones in control.
This raises serious questions about what on Earth the British government is doing pouring over £600 million of British aid money into promoting an agricultural model that stands in such stark contrast to that being practised by organisations such as SAT?
When the British government’s official line is that it wants to reach small-scale farmers, what is it doing supporting projects that are entirely focused on ensuring a favourable policy environment for large corporate investments in African agriculture?
In the three years since its launch, the New Alliance has been widely criticised by numerous civil society groups that have highlighted how the policy reforms and investments have had an array of disastrous outcomes. From landgrabs to farmer debts, and from policy reforms that favour businesses over farmers to seed law amendments which endanger century-old farming practices, the evidence is clear: the New Alliance is going against the interests of small-scale farmers, rather than supporting them.
These worrying outcomes concern Stanslaus Nyembea, the policy analyst and legal officer at Mviwata, a nationwide farmers’ group that represents some 200,000 small-scale Tanzanian farmers.
Like Janet, Stanslaus is worried about the encroaching takeover of Tanzania’s agriculture sector by transnational corporations. “We see a big risk that foreign corporations want to control the agricultural sector in Tanzania, especially the markets around seeds, fertilisers, chemicals and other agro inputs,” he says.
“This is a serious risk to small-scale farmers who might lose their land, which is integral to their livelihoods.”
What makes matters even worse is that, despite a lot of rhetoric, Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) seems unable to counter these criticisms by showing any tangible benefits that have come about from its multimillion-pound support to the New Alliance.
In the latest twist, the long-awaited annual progress review is now two months overdue, and counting. When questioned on its ongoing support for the New Alliance, DfID publicly announced that the results would be revealed in October 2015. At the time of writing, there is still no evidence of it. Upon further enquiry, it seems DfID isn’t even entirely sure who now manages this process.
Given that the stated aim of the New Alliance is about reaching small-scale farmers in order to achieve food security and improved nutrition, one would hope DfID were more concerned about ensuring the money spent has achieved these stated ambitions.
Even the European Union has now launched a formal inquiry into the New Alliance. Early in December, a hearing was launched with the release of a review paper authored by former rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter, an expert on food security.
He reports that the New Alliance is “seriously deficient in a number of areas,” in particular for its silence “on the need to shift to sustainable modes of agricultural production,” its failure to “support farmers’ seed systems” and its inability to recognise “the dangers associated with the emergence of a market for land rights.”
De Schutter goes on to berate the New Alliance for “only selectively [referring] to existing international standards that define responsible investment in agriculture” and only paying “lip service” to addressing the needs of women, “effectively creating the risk that women’s rights will be negatively affected as a result.”
Most crucially for a programme designed for food security and nutrition, it is “weak on nutrition, hardly acknowledging the links between agricultural production, food and health, and the need to support healthy and diversified diets.”
In light of this damning report, which reflects the concerns that farmers and civil society groups have been articulating for quite some time, the British government must admit the need for a serious review of its own.
Or better still, it must recognise the failure of the New Alliance to deliver on its stated ambitions and withdraw its support for the disastrous project once and for all. With hundreds of millions of British aid money going to the New Alliance, we need to push our government to stop using this money to the detriment of farmers like Janet.
Aisha Dodwell is campaigns and policy officer at Global Justice Now.