“Free trade” supports authoritarian regimes – and NOT Europe

unsplash-logoFlynn Doherty

At the end of 2019, trade conflicts dominate the headlines. They play into the hands of those who rigorously use their advantages. A comment

In the last few days we witnessed different news that seem independent but are interrelated. First of all, there is the new optimism accompanying the so-called “Phase One” trade deal between the USA and China. People have become accustomed to the constant ups and downs in the news when it comes to the actions of the US President. Now, however, China has declared that it wants to reduce import duties on over 850 US products as a result of the forthcoming trade deal. Ups and downs can also mean a general rule – towards an agreement between conflict parties.

Almost simultaneously, partnership negotiations between China, Japan and South Korea concluded in Beijing. Here, too an agreement between different Social Systems aims at an expanded Asia-Pacific deal. They strengthen the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership”. The RCEP id a trade zone comprising 15 countries, accounting for 45 percent of the world population (3 billion people) and 40 percent of total world trade. Even here, the USA played into the hands of its supposed opponent China when President Trump declared his renunciation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

In contrast, Europe is being put under pressure. Shortly before completion of the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, the US government imposes sanctions on the countries and companies involved in the project and calls this decision sarcastically “Pro-European”.

Our free and trade zone Europe has a short lifespan. Although peaceful Europe has existed since 1957, it is only since the Maastricht treaties in 1992 that we can speak of a true monetary and economic union. Despite this short time span we in Europe are used to the image, that economic success going hand in hand with democratic freedom. The elder people of us still have memories of the starving Eastern Bloc, whose unfree system of planned economy was accompanied by economic decline, while in Western Europe we went from one economic success to the next in freedom and democracy. Today, we must understand that lack of freedom and economic success are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary: freedom in the international movement of goods plays into the hands of those who are most ruthless in asserting their strength.