These days, it has become a cliché to say that the times are full of surprises and unwelcome occurrences. The surprise of the week, already announced, but now carried out relentlessly by Donald Trump (who else?), was that the U.S. president has decided to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This happened at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam, in front of 11 other countries. These other countries have decided to keep moving forward without the United States, now that Trump has decided to leave the multilateral organization. The reason for leaving, according to him, is that it has caused tremendous injustices and huge losses of foreign exchange, resulting in massive trade deficits in many of these cases.
Naturally, Trump said that, going forward, the United States will be much more careful about participating in trade deals like this, and that he is opposed to them in principle. This is a surprise to the half of the world that thinks it is obvious that the United States comes out ahead in these negotiations, although the stories they tell — about losses, not gains — are quite different. The fact is that the country which is considered key in the globalization of trade is slamming the door in its colleagues’ faces, and is withdrawing from multilateral negotiations in favor of bilateral negotiations, hoping to get better results that way.
It should be emphasized that just talking about APEC, 11 countries, among them Mexico, are, nevertheless, still in the game. Several of them, such as China, Russia and Canada, are the biggest and richest countries in the world. Under these conditions, it is very hard to talk about the end of multilateralism in trade. It is better to think about the consequences of the U.S. president’s course correction.
Clearly, there is still the possibility that this is not the end of multilateralism, but simply a statement from one country, no matter how important it is, and that the other countries will carry on with globalization as the dominant system. Chinese President Xi Jinping maintained in the meeting that globalization is irreversible. Another possibility, of course, is that over time, the system of globalization in trade will diversify, and there will be a new combination of initiatives which is not easy to predict in all its aspects.
There would probably be other equally spectacular consequences in the global arena. These might include, for example, a relative weakening of multilateral organizations and a reduced presence for them on the international stage.
We don’t want to engage in wild speculation about the effects that this decision will have on relationships among nations, because such speculation might never end. We would prefer to highlight a few problem areas between countries today. The disastrous effect of these problem areas on the domestic affairs of an ever-increasing number of nations is now at crisis level. As might be suspected, it is a question of so-called terrorism, already massive on a worldwide scale, which results in the murders by many methods of hundreds of citizens of all beliefs and ideologies.
Unsurprisingly, it has become easy to blame religious sectarianism or external political problems. This fundamentally and incomprehensibly ignores domestic forces, by no means limited to distortions or sectarianism, which are driving that terrorism. And everything indicates that it has to do with a variety of personal and societal problems that momentarily break out in a less conventional way.
But we can’t stop thinking about the possible links among such outbreaks, eventually with dozens or hundreds of victims; and about how easy it is in the United States to acquire weapons of practically every type, from the most basic to the most sophisticated, from those designed for military use to those developed for very specialized applications. More than this: In the United States, even the highest authorities — including that country’s president — find themselves, according to a whole host of evidence, fenced in and hamstrung by well-established interest groups. This is the case with the gun lobby, which has had powers above the law for more than half a century. These interest groups are politically untouchable in the United States to such an extent that it is urgent to investigate them, and try to find explanations for the many crimes that have up to now been shrouded in mystery. But no, there is no explanation even for the huge numbers of guns sent to Mexico. The authorities provide cover for the main centers of power in the United States, including the interest groups.
Another question worth considering, that is also nowhere close to an even remotely appropriate solution, is that of mass migration across the world. The causes or motives of these migrations vary, but they continue to multiply and increase greatly over time.
So, what are the causes of these migrations? They are of the greatest variety imaginable, but there are some thought to be the most persistent: extreme poverty and authoritarian dictatorships. So today it is to be expected, with some justification, that these mass migrations originate mainly in those areas of the globe where poverty reigns, or which are currently the scenes of bloody political struggles and persecution. These are the poorest regions of the world: Africa, the Middle East, a marked decrease in the formerly communist countries, and definitely an important increase in Central America and in some countries, like Venezuela, in other parts of Latin America. The simple fact is that, for a variety of reasons, the countries in conflict, or with deep-rooted economic problems, have not been sufficiently attentive to resolving some of their key problems. Yes, I said not sufficiently attentive, because almost without exception, their difficulties are the result of the invasions or exploitation to which they have been subjected, sometimes for several centuries, by the European countries (almost always) or by other colonial powers. In this case, once again, if the root cause is not examined, it will be very difficult to arrive at a satisfactory solution.