Geopolitics

The Backlash To Globalization Did Not Begin With Trump

President Trump is not curbing global trade alone, but is part of a trend traced back to the crash of 2008. And the legislation actually dates back to the 1950s.

Protest at Germany's Leifeld Metal factory
Protest at Germany's Leifeld Metal factory
Farid Kahhat

-Analysis-

LIMA — Not everything in this world is Donald Trump"s fault. His administration's protectionist tendencies are usually blamed for impeding the further integration of the global economy (or "globalization" we hear less and less about). In fact Trump is just riding a trend that has become increasingly evident since the global recession that began in December 2007.

In a recent edition, The Economist weekly found that out of 12 indicators of global economic integration, eight had declined or were stagnant since the recent, Great Recession. For example the share of the world economy of intermediate imports (those capital goods at the source of international value chains) fell from 19% in 2008 to 17% in 2018. Direct foreign investment dropped from 3.5% of the world economy in 2007 to 1.3% in 2018. Meanwhile those indices of economic integration that have risen since 2008 (like the proportion of migrants permanently moving to developed economies) are themselves part of what explains the resistance this integration is generating today.

It's true that Trump, himself, is a factor the world could not have anticipated.

Secondly the tendency to restrict foreign investment (especially from China) in firms making "critical technologies' for national security concerns, is supported by Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress (which has duly approved parts of the law in this regard). Certain member states of the European Union (EU) are also restricting foreign investment and the EU is considering adopting similar norms. I wrote months ago about the German government's pioneering decision to block a Chinese company acquiring the firm Leifeld Metal, for security reasons.

Thirdly, norms allowing the U.S. administration to take protectionist measures citing national security were approved in 1950 and 1962 respectively. The reason we hadn't heard before Trump of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 is that only 26 inquiries were launched on its back, with only two leading to trade-related measures. The last investigation was in 2001.

But not invoking its provisions did not mean these laws had lapsed. And the 1950 and 1962 acts gave the executive branch ample room for finding good reasons why these might be invoked.

These laws did not set down precise, quantitative standards for a start. The 1950 Defense Production Act cites excessive importation, but not how much that would be. Nor do they state exactly how economic factors could harm national security. The 1950 act includes for example, unspecified "other factors' the president and an advisory Committee could cite to enact its restrictive provisions.

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Geopolitics

Why This Sudan Coup Is Different

The military has seized control in one of Africa's largest countries, which until recently had made significant progress towards transitioning to democracy after years of strongman rule. But the people, and international community, may not be willing to turn back.

Smoke rises Monday over the Sudanese capital of Khartoum

Xinhua via ZUMA
David E. Kiwuwa

This week the head of Sudan's Sovereign Council, General Abdel Fattah El Burhan, declared the dissolution of the transitional council, which has been in place since the overthrow of former president Omar el-Bashir in 2019. He also disbanded all the structures that had been set up as part of the transitional roadmap, and decreed a state of emergency.

In essence, he staged a palace coup against the transitional authority he chaired.


The general's actions, which included the arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, are a culmination of a long period of tension between the civilian and military wings of the council.

A popular uprising may be inevitable

The tensions were punctuated by an alleged attempted coup only weeks earlier. The days leading to the palace coup were marked by street protests for and against the military. Does this mark the end of the transition as envisaged by the protest movement?

Their ability to confront counter revolutionary forces cannot be underestimated.

The popular uprising against Bashir's government was led by the Sudan Professional Association. It ushered in the political transitional union of civilians and the military establishment. The interim arrangement was to lead to a return to civilian rule.

But this cohabitation was tenuous from the start, given the oversized role of the military in the transition. Moreover, the military appeared to be reluctant to see the civilian leadership as an equal partner in shepherding through the transition.

Nevertheless, until recently there had been progress towards creating the institutional architecture for the transition. Despite the challenges and notable tension between the signatories to the accord, it was never evident that the dysfunction was so great as to herald the collapse of the transitional authority.

For now, the transition might be disrupted and in fact temporarily upended. But the lesson from Sudan is never to count the masses out of the equation. Their ability to mobilize and confront counter revolutionary forces cannot be underestimated.

Power sharing

The transitional pact itself had been anchored by eight arduously negotiated protocols. These included regional autonomy, integration of the national army, revenue sharing and repatriation of internal refugees. There was also an agreement to share out positions in national political institutions, such as the legislative and executive branch.

Progress towards these goals was at different stages of implementation. More substantive progress was expected to follow after the end of the transition. This was due in 2022 when the chair of the sovereignty council handed over to a civilian leader. This military intervention is clearly self-serving and an opportunistic power grab.

A promised to civilian rule in July 2023 through national elections.

In November, the rotational chairmanship of the transitional council was to be passed from the military to the civilian wing of the council. That meant the military would cede strong leverage to the civilians. Instead, with the coup afoot, Burhan has announced both a dissolution of the council as well as the dismissal of provincial governors. He has unilaterally promised return to civilian rule in July 2023 through national elections.

Prior to this, the military had been systematically challenging the pre-eminence of the civilian authority. It undermined them and publicly berated them for governmental failures and weaknesses. For the last few months there has been a deliberate attempt to sharply criticize the civilian council as riddled with divisions, incompetent and undermining state stability.

File photo shows Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in August 2020

Mohamed Khidir/Xinhua via ZUMA

Generals in suits

Since the revolution against Bashir's government, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council.

This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy. True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19.

Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse.

Demands of the revolution

The success or failure of this coup will rest on a number of factors.

First is the ability of the military to use force. This includes potential violent confrontation with the counter-coup forces. This will dictate the capacity of the military to change the terms of the transition.

Second is whether the military can harness popular public support in the same way that the Guinean or Egyptian militaries did. This appears to be a tall order, given that popular support appears to be far less forthcoming.

The international community's appetite for military coups is wearing thin.

Third, the ability of the Sudanese masses to mobilize against military authorities cannot be overlooked. Massive nationwide street protests and defiance campaigns underpinned by underground organizational capabilities brought down governments in 1964, 1985 and 2019. They could once again present a stern test to the military.

Finally, the international community's appetite for military coups is wearing thin. The ability of the military to overcome pressure from regional and international actors to return to the status quo could be decisive, given the international support needed to prop up the crippled economy.

The Sudanese population may have been growing frustrated with its civilian authority's ability to deliver on the demands of the revolution. But it is also true that another coup to reinstate military rule is not something the protesters believe would address the challenges they were facing.

Sudan has needed and will require compromise and principled political goodwill to realise a difficult transition. This will entail setbacks but undoubtedly military intervention in whatever guise is monumentally counterproductive to the aspirations of the protest movement.

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David E. Kiwuwa is Associate Professor of International Studies at University of Nottingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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