The election of Donald Trump as President of the USA has dramatically reignited the recurring debate on protectionism vs. free trade. Commercial self-interest has been a natural and essential driver of US trade policy. But the current US administration’s narrative on trade, in sharp contrast to the US approach since World War II, seems to have abandoned any reference to – or acknowledgement of – the positive strategic contribution of free trade to international stability and prosperity.
Prologue: March 4th 2018: the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement (M5S) is the winner of the national elections, with 32% of the vote. The populist Lega comes second, in a Centre-right coalition with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the far-right Fratelli d’Italia, who together win 37% of the vote. Because of an electoral law which requires any party or coalition to achieve 40% of the vote to command a majority in Parliament, negotiations to form a government are tricky.
On 1 March the European Commission presented its Recommendation on measures to tackle illegal online content. What it does: continue the crack down on hate speech at a pace which would have been impossible had the Commission chosen a legislative approach. What it doesn’t do: establish a Ministry of Truth—just yet.
Last week the European Commission published its much-anticipated Plastics Strategy, as part of the Circular Economy Package. It is being hailed as major news. Is it really? Yes and no. No, because it actually does not come with any new legislative initiatives. It announces some, but several were already in the pipeline, others remain to be assessed and others still will be very tough to see through, e.g. Commissioner Oettinger’s plan for an EU plastics tax. At the same time, it is real news, for one main reason: it exposes a fundamental dichotomy in current thinking and promises to shift the debate in a direction that will be challenging for industry.
The regional grouping of ten South East Asian countries which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam celebrates 50 years of successfully binding diverse trade, economic, political, social, cultural and geo-political interests.
“The Battle of the Grains means freeing Italy from the slavery of foreign bread”. So spoke Benito Mussolini on 30 July 1925, as he illustrated to a delegation of Italian farmers his plans to end Italy’s reliance on foreign wheat imports. 92 years later, history seems to repeat itself, with the Partito Democratico-led government announcing […]
To quote the great Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” (If you don’t know who Ferris Bueller is, that’s a major gap in your general culture that you need to fill right away!)