Globalization Under Fire, From Protectionism To Pandemic

The world's prevailing trade system was facing major challenges even before the pandemic. But that doesn't mean globalization is destined to die.

The pandemic has had a brutal impact on globalization
The pandemic has had a brutal impact on globalization
Carlos Espósito*


MADRID — The pandemic has had a brutal impact on globalization, so it's only reasonable that people are questioning whether COVID-10 will spell the system's eventual demise.

The rules governing international trade took a hit months before the virus appeared, with a proliferation of protectionist measures, budding trade wars and especially the U.S. administration's decision to block the reappointment of the WTO's appellate body judges. The latter effectively halted the trade organization's disputes resolution mechanism from Dec. 10, 2019.

But what's happened since then — with lockdowns and border closures — is a different type of challenge, and one that's defined by the immensity of its scope. Indeed, the measures states have taken to protect people from the virus are affecting all economic areas: tourism, aviation, the global economy's value chains, higher education... all of that and more!

As a result, obituaries have begun to appear for globalization. The philosopher John Gray has declared that its apogee is past and we are moving into a less interconnected world that will function more online and have more physical restrictions.

Such trends are evident, but it is too early to be certain about the world order we may expect once we emerge from the pandemic, especially when we don't even know what the "end" of this pandemic means exactly.

More useful are the arguments put forth by jurists Nicolas Lamp and Anthea Roberts, who believe there is no single answer to whether or not the virus is killing globalization. They contend that numerous narratives are fighting to forward their version of reality before this global crisis.

They are approximative discourses, with narratives that run the gamut. Some are globalizing (this is an opportunity, they argue, to improve global cooperation against a global virus). Others are climatic (it's time for economic reconversion), security-oriented (fighting the virus pertains to national security), democratic (authoritarian regimes are worse at fighting the virus), authoritarian (democratic regimes are a disadvantage in imposing anti-virus measures), conservative (the virus further proves the need to curb migratory flows) or progressive (we need universal healthcare and universal basic income systems).

We could be looking at a world of much more isolated states.

With due caution in predicting any global model to come, one can already say that this crisis and preceding developments herald some profound changes to the way the world economy is organized. There is even talk of a new form of sovereignty — strategic sovereignty — whose contours remain vague for now.

The idea carries some central tenets like power and responsibility, as part of a primordial concern with the state's duty to protect its citizens and essential goods like food, drugs and technologies. Its emphasis is on the idea of resilience. A fragmented world peppered with strategic sovereignties seems incompatible with hyper-globalization, but the process has yet to become definitive.

We could be looking at a world of much more isolated states, with exclusive regulatory regimes that may be harsher for weaker states, and costlier for the powerful ones. Or we may see a different type of globalization, more limited in its forms and contents, and with different goals. Its emphasis may become regulating global public goods, within a framework of strong and genuine international cooperation.

*Espósito is a lecturer in public international law at Madrid's Autonomous University.

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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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