Return to protectionism, in this day and age, is it feasible ?

For the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who during the World Economic Forum in Davos, paradoxically seeming to be defending Free Trade, threw at the new American president, Donald Trump on January 17th, 2017 that no one would emerge as the winner of a trade war, or as he put it, a Return to protectionism, in this day and age, is it feasible ? “It doesn’t help to blame globalization. Any attempt to stop trade in capital, technology, and products between countries is impossible and contrary to history. We must remain committed to the development of free trade and investment (transnational), and say no to protectionism. We got to ‘rebalance’ globalization, and make it stronger, more inclusive and more sustainable”. In this context it is useful to recall the fundamentals of the crisis of 1929 and 2008. The 1929 Crisis. The 1929 crash is caused by a speculative bubble, whose genesis dates back to 1927. It was a new system of credit purchase of shares based on investors buying securities with 10% coverage that started it all. It was ‘Black Thursday’ October 24th, 1929 that the famous crisis broke out [. . .]

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Return to protectionism, in this day and age, is it feasible ?

Let’s ponder October 1929 and October 2008

For the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who during the World Economic Forum in Davos, paradoxically seeming to be defending Free Trade, threw at the new American president, Donald Trump on January 17th, 2017 that no one would emerge as the winner of a trade war, or as he put it, a Return to protectionism, in this day and age, is it feasible ?

“It doesn’t help to blame globalization. Any attempt to stop trade in capital, technology, and products between countries is impossible and contrary to history. We must remain committed to the development of free trade and investment (transnational), and say no to protectionism. We got to ‘rebalance’ globalization, and make it stronger, more inclusive and more sustainable”. In this context it is useful to recall the fundamentals of the crisis of 1929 and 2008.

The 1929 Crisis.

The 1929 crash is caused by a speculative bubble, whose genesis dates back to 1927. It was a new system of credit purchase of shares based on investors buying securities with 10% coverage that started it all. It was ‘Black Thursday’ October 24th, 1929 that the famous crisis broke out in the United States.

le krach boursier de Wall street plongeant l’économie américaine et l’économie mondiale, dans la tourmente et ce malgré l’apparente santé de l’économie américaine dont les bases de sa croissance étaient pourtant faibles.

The stock crash of Wall Street plunged the American and the global economy in turmoil, and this despite the apparent health of the U.S. economy of which bases of its growth, were however weak.

October 2008

There are many similarities between the crisis of October 1929 and October 2008. Economic boom prior to the crisis, rising debt and divorce between the real and financial impact on the real economy with the fall of technology stocks.

But in contrast with 1929, it is the interconnection of economies with stronger global regulation where the developed countries economies being in deflation (low inflation, unemployment, negative growth) and not stagflation (inflation and unemployment decline) that characterised 2008.

As evidenced by the socialization of losses of some banks, the rapid response of the central banks of the US Fed., the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, Japanese, Russian, and even Chinese and Indian banks in coordination so as to break the vicious circle in the lack of confidence and the blocked interbank lending that is the lifeblood of the functioning of the global economy.

All economic and reliable financial system is based on trust. With repeated bankruptcies, interbank credit source of the expansion of the global economy has tended to dry out especially at the investment banks that have experienced an unparalleled expansion in the contemporary period.

However, unlike a universal bank, a Merchant Bank has not the possibility, in case of difficult market conditions, to rely on deposits of individuals to raise money for the short term, although they continue to issue short-term debt to finance their business.

However, more financial institutions from which investment banking sourced finance do refuse in times of crisis to lend for lack of confidence in the ability of repayment of these banks. Generally the essence of the crisis of both 1929 as of 2008 are a distortion of the Foundation of capitalism as describing by the founders of political economy based on the enterprising creators of wealth, Karl Marx did not write about Socialism but the Capital.

This crisis is therefore related to the increasing financialisation in disconnection with the real economy and not in symbiosis of any economic and social dynamics forgetting that labour is certainly a price but also creator of value and growth through consumption. Indeed, with this increasing financialisation, we have two types of shares ownership.

The direct holding (those who own directly) and the indirect holding (those who own through an intermediary such as management, life insurance companies, pension funds, etc.). The new fact is changing fast and important type of shares held by households. The direct holding of shares becomes a minority whereas the indirect holding grew strong.

It is the pension funds that control Wall Street whilst managing more than one third of the market capitalization of the USA today. These malfunctions have been materialised with the mortgage crisis of the Subprime in August 2007; a crisis that has spread across the global stock markets with great losses which I summarize in five steps:

  1. The banks made mortgages available to insolvent households or with few guarantees, at high interest rates;
  2. Dissemination of bad debt in the market: to evacuate the risks, banks “securitised” their debts, meaning that they cut their debt in financial products to resell them on the market. Globalisation did the rest, by disseminating these risky securities in the portfolios of investors from all over the world. Hedge funds have been big buyers of Subprimes, often on credit to boost their yields (up to 30% per year), and played the leverage effect, hedge funds borrow up to 90% of the sums required;
  3. Reversal of the U.S. real estate market: towards the end of 2005, U.S. interest rates began to rise while the financial market has faltered. Thousands of households have been unable to honour their payments causing losses for banks and investors who bought bonds saw their value collapse:
  4. Confidence crisis: the banks found themselves in a situation where as in a poker game, they know what they have on their balance sheet, but not what is in that of others because these bad mortgages were bought everywhere in the world and we don’t know what is the distribution of risk where a serious crisis of confidence and since July 2007, this situation causes the exchanges to fall and paralyzes the interbank market; banks are paying more or very little fearing that their counterparts are in a red line;
  5. Intervention of central banks: facing the paralysis in the market, the Central Banks intervened massively in early August 2007 by injecting hundreds of billions of Dollars and Euros in cash.

November 15th, 2008 : G20 crisis meeting in Washington, USA.

Elle s’est articulée autour de  cinq objectifs dont  le renforcement du système de régulation qui ne saurait signifier protectionnisme. Premièrement de dégager une réponse commune à la crise financière-deuxièmement ouvrir les pistes d’une réforme en profondeur du système financier international -troisièmement prendre de nouvelles initiatives pour parer à d’éventuelles faillites bancaires et imposer aux banques de nouvelles normes comptables -quatrièmement des règles plus strictes sur les agences de notation, la titrisation et les parachutes dorés

This meeting focused on five objectives, including the strengthening of the system of regulation which does not mean protectionism.

  • First to identify a common response to the financial crisis;
  • Second to open tracks for a reform of the international financial system;
  • Third to take new initiatives to counter possible bank failures and impose on the banks of new accounting standards;
  • Fourth to adopt stricter rules on credit rating agencies, securitisation and the Golden parachutes;
  • Finally, in fifth to increase public spending through coordinated budget deficits, but for the benefit of energy savings for the building and infrastructure development and clean auto technology, questioning the European stability pact (3% of GDP and spending on / GDP less than 60%.)

But it is clear that in this month of January 2017, the global economy is still characterized by turbulence with protectionist options but in a framework of unbridled internal liberalization wanting back in vogue Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market, which is likely to repeat the scenario of the 1929.  However, the strategic goal is to rethink the current global economic system that promotes bipolarisation North / South, poverty detrimental to the future of humanity, which is also accelerated by the most questionable governance on behalf of most of the leaders of the South.

In short, the return to global protectionism is a chimera and realism will prevail in the end.

In the meantime, let us meditate the crisis of October 1929 and that of October 2008. The large deficit of the American balance of payments, which will be accentuated with the new spending program announced by the new president (with the risk of a loss in value of the Dollar), is currently offset by the large flows of capital from outside the US. . Let us for the sake for humanity, put aside all nationalism, chauvinism that are source of tensions, hatred and war and meditate this quote that is sometimes attributed to French president Charles de Gaulle, under the title “Patriotism is loving his country, Nationalism, is hate of others’” and sometimes to Romain Garyn in his book “European Education” published in 1945 under the title “Patriotism is the love of one’s kin Nationalism is hatred of others”.    ademmebtoul@gmail.com

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