Category Archives: Globalization

New Zealand Companies Office’s $612Mn Money-Laundering Snooze

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project recently (21st August) published one of their periodic investigations, concerning a rather large moneylaundering scheme: Call it the Laundromat. It’s a complex system for laundering more than $20 billion in Russian money stolen from the government by corrupt politicians or earned through organized crime activity. It was designed to not only […]

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the Whale Oil Blog, and International Organized Crime

A new book is causing a stir in New Zealand. It’s called “Dirty Politics“. From the blurb:

Early in 2014 Nicky Hager was leaked a large number of email and online conversations from Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog. Many of these were between Slater and his personal allies on the hard right, revealing an ugly and destructive style of politics. But there were also many communications with the prime minister’s office and other Cabinet ministers in the National Government. They show us a side of Prime Minister John Key and his government of which most New Zealanders are completely unaware.

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The Roots of Today’s International Organizations and World War I

Today’s international institutions have roots in the tenuous peace between World Wars I and II. This column details the importance of Austria as a prototype for international aid and development. In the case of Austria, the interwar powers realized the inefficacy of a punitive peace, and instituted a system by which private credit markets would assist development in a mutually beneficial relationship. The Austrian ‘success story’ is key to understanding today’s international relations.

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“Land Grabs” – Economists’ Justifications of Agricultural Expropriation

Yves here. Robert Heilbroner described economics as the study of how society resources itself. It’s hard to think of a resourcing issue more basic than food. Not surprisingly, food and the means of producing it were the source of traditional wealth (the so-called landed aristocracy). Similarly, expropriation of rights that yeoman farmers had enjoyed, such as hunting rights and access to common pasture land, were the main devices that early industrialists used to end the farmers’ self-sufficiency and force them to sell their labor as a condition of survival. Even though similar land grabs are justified now under the idea that large-scale farming is more efficient than cultivation by smaller operators, Tim Wise contends that evidence is not conclusive, particularly in emerging economies.

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Hillary Clinton and Trade Deals: That “Giant Sucking Sound”

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. In the 1992 Presidential campaign, Ross Perot famously said in debate: We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. It’s pretty simple: If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor,…have […]

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The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Review of Economic Blogs

Yves here. This post from VoxEU gives a partial answer to a question many US readers have been asking: what are the prospects for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? As we’ve written, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’s evil twin, the TransPacific Partnership, looks to be in trouble. Both the Senate and the House are opposed, and Obama wants them to give him “fast track” approval to facilitate completing the accord. Our resident Japan commentator Clive says the Japanese press is treating the deal as dead, absent major changes in US posture that no one expects to happen. The Wikileaks publication of two draft chapters showed that all of the proposed parties to the agreement have significant objections to many of the provisions.

But much less is known about the state of play of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

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More Challenges to “More ‘Free Trade’ is Always Better” Orthodoxy

One way to induce a Pavlovian reflex in mainstream economists is to invoke the expression “free trade”. Conventional wisdom holds that more trade is always better; only Luddites and protectionists are against it. That’s one big reason why the toxic TransPacific Partnership and its evil twin, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, have gotten virtually no critical scrutiny, save from more free-thinking economists like Dean Baker. They have been sold as “free trade” deals and no Serious Economist wants to besmirch his reputation by appearing to be opposed to more liberalized trade.

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Michael Hudson and Leo Panitch on BRICS Development Bank Salvo v. the Dollar

Yves here. I’ve refrained from saying much about the announcement of the plan to establish a $100 billion development bank by the BRICs nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) because the hype is ahead of the reality. Yes, it is true that the US has been abusing its role as steward of the reserve currency. QE has been a huge bone of contention in all emerging markets, since hot money has flooded in, while the Fed has, in an insult to the collective intelligence of the leaders of these countries, tried claiming that it has nothing to do with the influx. And they are bracing themselves for the tidal retreat when the Fed starts tightening. The US’ efforts to use sanctions to punish Russia have also focused the minds of these countries.

However, the formation of a development banks falls vastly short of the infrastructure needed for any country’s currency (or a basket of currencies) to displace the dollar.

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Germany Bucking Toxic, Nation-State Eroding Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

We’ve inveighed against the dangers of two Orwellianlly-branded “trade” deals, the TransPacific Partnership and its ugly twin, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Both negotiations have been shrouded in a deeply troubling level of secrecy, with their draft terms being given classified status and Congressmen kept largely in the dark as to their content (summaries provided by the US Trade Representative aren’t remotely adequate, since as in all contracts, much hinges on exact language).

The business press in the US has tended to amplify Administration messaging, that both deals are moving forward. In fact, as we’ve covered in some detail, the TransPacific Partnership is in quite a lot of trouble, and as we’ll discuss below, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is also going pear shaped.

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US Port Strike Threat Highlights Supply Chain Risk

One issue we’ve raise over the year is the ways that the corporate fetish for offshoring and outsourcing greatly increases business risk. Even when savings are realized (and as we’ve discussed, in many cases, the main result is a transfer from factory/lower level workers to managers and executives), they are seldom weighed properly against the increased fragility of the operation, and the resulting exposure to big losses. For instance, extended supply chains entail more communications across the chain, longer production cycles, more shipping, all of which increase the odds of writeoffs via having too much inventory or inventory in the wrong place, and those occasional losses can swamp the savings over time.

Those supply chain risks have come into focus, as the Financial Times reminds us, as the possibility of West Coast port strikes looms.

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Japanese Prime Minister Abe Vows to Conclude TransPacific Partnership by Year End. Should We Worry?

Last week, I came across an article in Japan Times which gave the impression that the TransPacific Partnership was being revived from the dead. From the article:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a “strong intention” to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks by the end of the year, TPP minister Akira Amari said Friday as the U.S. pork lobby pressured Japan to make concessions, but added that the free trade deal cannot be struck without a commitment from all sides.

But is this a real commitment, or mere Japanese conflict-avoidance?

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The Corporate Illogic of Outsourcing and Offshoring

You must go, now, and read a critically important piece questioning the logic of sending American manufacturing jobs offshore. It’s titled Losing Sparta (hat tip Dikaios Logos) by Ester Kaplan in VQR. We have written regularly about how we have been repeatedly told by managers and executives that the case for offshoring was often not compelling, particularly when risks, such as higher financing and shipping costs, exposure to foreign exchange losses, and inventory risk were included. This makes perfect sense when you consider that for most manufactured goods, factory labor is a mere 10-15% of total wholesale cost, and any savings in factory labor will be offset by higher shipping and greater managerial costs (more coordination, performed by much more highly paid workers). It is thus more accurate to regard a lot of offshoring as not being about cost savings, but a transfer from ordinary workers to managers and executives.

The article focuses on a world class manufacturing plant in Sparta, Tennessee, owned by Phillips that made florescent light bulbs.

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Gaius Publius: Arctic Seafloor Methane Release is Double Earlier Estimates

one of the cornerstones of the idea that mankind still has a “carbon budget” — that we can still release even more CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane, though a “limited” amount — is the idea that we can do a good job of modeling climate-changing feedbacks. We can do a good job of modeling some feedbacks, but we’re very bad at modeling others, and some feedbacks have so much randomness about them that modeling them becomes next to impossible.

The release of frozen methane is one of the biggest uncertainties in climate modeling. Results so far are much worse than forecasted.

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Mexican Shale Industry Hoist on Nafta-Induced Gang Violence Petard

There’s perilous little recognition in the US of how much of the rise in gang violence and drug wars, as well as much harsher economic conditions for ordinary people, is the direct result of Nafta. While the toll has fallen hardest on Mexicans, American businesses may see collateral damage in the form of not getting much access to Mexico’s shale gas. An industry that doesn’t hesitate knocking over countries to get what it wants seems a bit stymied in how to deal with drug thugs who control access to a resource the developers want and have no interest in playing nice.

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