The United States and International Trade

International trade is the process of exchanging goods, services, and capital between countries and regions. The United States has had a long history of trade with nations all over the world and constantly act as the main component of global trade today. According to the U.S Department of Commerce, the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of goods and services, with over 2.3 trillion export revenue in 2014 (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2018). However, the United States - once the greatest trades evangelist, is now starting to question the trades political merit. Donald Trump’s election campaign has effectively tapped into the constituents’ hostility towards free trade, specifically in the Rust Belt (America famous manufacturing belt). It seems rather confusing - a wealthy country with a conventionally liberal idealism would be opposed to the concept of trade.

Trade liberalism

The U.S., for many decades, had been the world's largest global trader and a major advocate on the liberal free-trade ideology. The United States many years agreed that economic aggregate from global free markets is advantageous to their own economic interests. Free trade increases prosperity for Americans—and the citizens of all participating nations—by allowing consumers to buy more, better-quality products at lower costs. This ripple effect leads to the economic interdependence between nations while also facilitates development and peace around the world. It increases access to much higher quality, lower priced goods, due to inflationary pressure, especially with China and Mexico. In the case of the business sector, it creates competitiveness, requiring the market to constantly adapt to the shifting demand of worldwide market place. It made fairness a global standard, when everyone follows the same rule-based system, created a virtue common sense of conscience. Last but not least is the innovation and efficiency, free trade creates an international environment where workers constantly shifts and resources are traded for more novelty and productive usage.

Protectionism and hegemonic stability

In recent years, U.S. manufacturing area, Rust Belt has witnessed a recessive economic decline over the past half-century, plummeted by the year 2000 (Austin, 2018). As a result, a political narrative that talks up the benefits of free trade were introduced, it stated that free-trade was destroying the capacity for many to put food on the table. Under high tension of high tariffs, the reduction of jobs, it generated the phenomenon of dissatisfaction with free trade in the U.S. While this was happening, more and more foreign policies in opposition to free trade were introduced, leading to the era of anti-free trade. This resulted in the withdrawal from many bilateral agreements, and the introduction of higher tariffs. The United States, the crux of the economic and political security system on which the world had relied for more than three-quarters of a century is now gone. The wreckage of Mr. Trump’s approach to foreign policy continues to pile up across Asia and around the world. Some parts of the world are wrestling with a longer-term retreat of American power. The tit-for-tat battle over sanctions between the US and China could undermine growth in the euro area and leave US tariffs at their highest level for half a century. In international trade, the high tariff will lead to GDP losing 365.1 billion in value, 2.75 million jobs will be lost, lost of production is 915$ per person in the market (Watson, 2018). The introduction of anti-free-trade notion has led to the paralysis of future investment. This is a real consequence of human nature, slowing down growth, many jobs disappearing, lack of capital investment for new businesses. Slowly and surely, the damage will spread. In the end, is it worth to blame everything towards the concept of free trade or trade liberalism? Or is it the fault of redistribution capacity where the U.S is too hegemonic which affected the stability of other nations? Is the U.S saving its economic deficit or is its foreign policy the product of xenophobia? Everything has its way, but a careful discussion is required to give a better conclusion.

 

References

Austin, J. C. (2018, March 6). Brookings. From Brookings Education: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/06/why-the-rust-belt-economy-will-suffer-in-a-trade-war/

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (2018, June 17). U.S. Chamber of Commerce. From U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Policy: https://www.uschamber.com/international/international-policy/benefits-international-trade

Watson, P. W. (2018, December 20). Forbes. From Forbes Money: https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickwwatson/2018/12/20/how-trumps-trade-policies-actually-damage-the-economy/#56fd7a3e441f


[TOPIC: REFORMING THE UNSC] Proposed reforms for UNSC and Veto power

Reform themes

Decision 62/557 of the General Assembly denotes five key themes in reforming the Security Council:

  1. Categories of membership

  2. Regional representation

  3. Size of an enlarged Security Council and working methods of the Council

  4. The question of the veto

  5. The relationship between the Council and the General Assembly.

Predicated upon these themes, the agenda of the GA Committee focuses on the following considerations:  

a. Enlarging the Security Council: Toward Inclusive Regional Representation

With many of the blocs and groups discussing the Security Council reform, a few commonalities can be made. One of them is membership expansion (both permanent and non-permanent), particularly to states in Africa and Asia, which have grown significantly under the current shift in geopolitics. If the ideas discussed regarding representation end up being passed, then one could certainly expect more inclusive discussions and considerations for different political, as well as cultural standpoints in the council. We would even see some of these countries becoming full-fledged permanent members of the UNSC.

However, joint efforts this regard are likely to intensify bilateral and regional contentions. It should also not be forgotten that states prioritize national interests over the interests of their region or continent. With limited seats in the Security Council, even when any sort of expansion takes place, prominent countries are prone to compete for an exclusive seat, a means to advance their national interests. To further complicate the issue, among various indicators or parameters of power, which should constitute the qualification for membership?  

b.Challenging The Veto System: Toward Effective Decision Making

The veto system is often criticized as the embodiment of great power politics, enabling the great powers to determine or sabotage international agendas, contravening the UN’s principle of “every country is equal”. This concern can be mitigated through a reformation entailing the removal of the right to veto in cases pertaining to mass atrocity crimes. Other proposals include adding more permanent members to the UNSC to restructure the currently existing balance of power, which would possibly result in more multifaceted discussions in the council.

Many countries oppose the abolishment of the veto system as they still see values in keeping such a potent prerogative. Security concerns in the international arena always precipitate the polarization between two opposing blocs led by great powers. In these situations, a powerful bloc might find the use of military forces and sanctions to punish atrocious acts tempting. However, states often disagree on what constitutes “atrocity” and intervention based on humanitarian concerns might be used as a veil to conceal political agenda. The veto power, arguably, among other checks and balances on foreign intervention, is necessary to ensure that no prominent bloc or country can employ UN mandates to take any politically-motivated and direct action against other nations.

Bloc-Proposed Reforms

  1. G4 proposes for an expansion of the permanent membership to include Japan, India, Germany, and Brazil in addition to two African countries. They also suggest the council incorporate 3 more non-permanent seats.

  2. Uniting for Consensus bloc only proposes to increase the number of permanent members from 10 to 20 seats while keeping the number of permanent members. They also emphasize the need to delegate the election of the regional representative to each regional groups.

  3. African Group insists that any reform must have African countries in both permanent and non-permanent seats. They propose to have 2 African countries as permanent members and 5 African countries as non-permanent members.

  4. L.69 Group of Developing Countries calls for an expansion of the Security Council that ensures equitable and fair representation without any specific suggestion.  

  5. Arab Group calls for broader representation of Arab and/or Muslim countries and the abolishment of the veto system.


References

IGN. "Revised Elements of Commonality and Issues for Further Consideration." https://www.un.org/pga/72/wp-content/uploads/sites/51/2018/03/IGN-Security-Council-Reform.compressed.pdf

"Arab Group Says UNSC Reforms "vital" for Fair Representation, Development." KUNA. https://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2658596&language=en.


[TOPIC: REFORMING THE UNSC] The UNSC and Criticism of the UNSC

The United Nations Security Council

Prior to the establishment of the United Nations, the lack of legal-binding international agreements, as well as a collaborative reaction from the international community in the face of growing fascism and militarism precipitated the second World War that saw the tragic loss of over 60 million lives. World leaders recognized an imperative need for an international institution which can facilitate dialogues and negotiations. As a result, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was created in 1945 as an effort to coordinate the peacekeeping efforts of countries around the world.

Unlike other institutions within the United Nations, the UNSC's resolutions are legal-binding documents, which means the actors specified in these resolutions are compelled to realize the required actions, or risk facing sanctions and other forms of punishments from the international community. There are 15 members, 5 of which are permanent (China, France, Russia, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland - generally referred to as the P5) and 10 are non-permanent members chosen from United Nations' members. Each resolution of the council must be passed with at least 10 votes from the members, and receive no vote against from any of the 5 permanent members. This voting procedure gave a de facto veto for the P5.

Criticism of the UNSC

One of the most common criticism is that the list of permanent members is not reflective of current world politics. As Mo Ibrahim, a renowned African philanthropist puts it: "The Security Council represents the situation from 1945 - you had the Allies who won the war who occupied that. The defeated guys - the Germans and Japan - were out." A number of countries have been having a more and more significant voice in international politics, such as Germany, India, Japan or Brazil. These countries feel that the inclusion of more voices in the council would better reflect the balance of power in current world politics.

Another criticism of the UNSC is that it is considered the embodiment of great power politics, where decisions are being made solely by the powerhouses and reflect their interests only. Since each power has its own interests to keep, world peace comes second in any debate. The veto power grants the P5 an enormous power to block any unwanted decisions that could potentially undermine their agenda. As of 2018, Russia/USSR have used 112 vetoes, followed by the United States with 81. During the Ukrainian conflict, Russia vetoed every resolution pertaining to the question of Crimea. In the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital, the US was the only country opposing a draft resolution condemning the decision of President Trump. The abuse of the veto power and the lack of a counter mechanism were even publicly confirmed by Elliot Abrams, former foreign policy adviser to President Bush and current Special Representative for Venezuela. He said that "The U.S. has the power to block all anti-Israel moves in the Security Council, not just some of them, and to do so without agreeing to unfair, damaging compromises."

The UNSC is also suffering criticism for the lack of equal representation. There is no country from Africa or the Arab world holding permanent member status. 3 of the 5 permanent members belong to the Western European bloc, and with 2 other members from the same bloc among the 10 non-permanent members, 1/3 of the members are from Western European bloc. It is difficult to claim that the UNSC reflect the interests of bringing world peace if the representation of regions around the world is not there at the council.

There is a growing consensus that the UNSC needs to be reformed in order to become a better functioning council and fulfill its duty with efficacy. There are several different reform proposals by different countries and actors, yet the challenge of mediating countries' interests remains. In the dawn of revived extremism and populism worldwide, the need for the UNSC to change is more and more urgent.