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Expert opinion: current events and their impact on global trade

August 24, 2020 2:49 PM, Der AUDITOR
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SEEHEIM/SACRAMENTO. In collaboration with the AUDITOR team, US exporter Erik Anderson, CEO of Anderson Exports, reflected on how current events are affecting global trade and the economy. Racism, the problem of nuclear weapons and financial injustice are being discussed.

Words have power and I think the German government understands this implicitly by thinking about deleting the word “race” from their constitution. By examining the use of the word “race”, we can better understand the time in history our founding documents come from and work to ensure we update them to best reflect; not only on where we are, as a nation, but also where do we strive to be?

Most of the import/export trade runs on INCOTERMS, which up until this year were known as INCOTERMS 2010. As the world has changed and so have some legal definitions used in the trade of goods across transmodal international trade, January 2020 introduced INCOTERMS 2020. If the INCOTERMS need to be updated every 10 years, it could be argued that a regular auditing of the documents we use to literally administer the rule of law will be a similarly useful exercise.  

Now, I think it is important to reflect and examine the historic time we are currently experiencing. Historic virus propagation leading to widespread disruptions in almost everyone’s lives has perhaps drowned out the fact that August 6, 2020 also marked the 75th anniversary of the United States dropping a nuclear weapon on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Lost in the onslaught of news today is the ongoing and very real threat of nuclear annihilation. The bomb used on Hiroshima killed an estimated 146,000 within days of the blast. By comparison, the US has lost slightly more (174,000 as of 8.21.2020) over the course of several months with ALL major cities contributing to the total death toll. Comparative suffering is not the point here, these examples simply show the power of a single nuclear blast. Further, consider that today’s Thermonuclear weapons generate devastating explosive force that can be between 100 and 3,000 times more destructive than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. As the US, Europe, Russia, and China wade through the aftermath of the pandemic and its worst effects, it is essential for sober and coherent collaboration between all nuclear powers to ensure the enforcement of standards for non-proliferation are of the highest priority.

The recent blast in Lebanon has highlighted for many the basic infrastructure of ports and warehousing; things which are usually invisible to the average civilian yet vital to the functioning of all major economies. The blast in Lebanon was an accident with basic chemicals. Imagine a nefarious actor adding dirty nuclear material in a similar explosive attack on a major global port. This kind of “dirty” bomb, and it’s radioactive fallout, would disrupt major global supply chains in ways it is hard to imagine, even today during the Coronavirus pandemic. The risks of nuclear annihilation, the current pandemic, and the widespread global unrest we currently see over racial injustice must be faced in equal parts.

If the German people believe removing the word “race” from the constitution will bring us closer to the founding ideals of the nation, then it is a great step in the right direction. I think updating our founding documents does not go far enough though. Bubbling up within the racial justice protests is a major economic component. It is not just about racial inequality, but also about economic inequality.

Perhaps it is worth thinking about how capital works in the 21st century and how it will need to work leading into the 22nd. Capital is at the heart of the global capitalist system and it worked for thousands of years in its current form – from transactions between individuals to the collection of taxes by sovereign nations. But how does this system work when a handful of individuals and in the future, robots, make the majority of the income? (10% in the USA own some 70% of total wealth, while globally 8 men hold as much wealth as the bottom 50% combined) The ethics of taxing robots and companies' decisions to replace jobs traditionally held by human workers are small concerns compared to how the actual money system will work. Want to envision a new more just future, envision a new money system. 

Capital in the age of the internet presents us with a conundrum I call Hyper-Aggregations of Wealth –  basically giant baskets of money with regular major inflows (and very little to no outflows) of capital; sitting in places like Bermuda, Ireland, Panama, Malta, Cyprus, and a million other such locations. Reagan called his economics “trickle-down” – let’s call these economics of today’s web monopolies, “flushing-up”.

Historically, financial transactions were between individuals – one can only sell so many items to so many people in a limited geographic area. Today, companies like Amazon and Alibaba have the ability to reach not just every citizen of the nations where they were established, but the internet enables these businesses to potentially reach EVERY global citizen. Governments have long standing and extremely well litigated agreements with their citizens to collect taxes within their borders, while these internet companies have no such geographic or publicly decided constraints. And unlike governments, who then use tax revenues for re-investment in the public good, e.g. fighting pandemics – internet monopolies privatize their gains amongst a handful of fortunate men (and it is almost always men).

In our winner take all economies, internet entrepreneurs are at the intersection of intelligence/innovation and pure blind luck. Did you, or do you, have access to the internet? Should this really be the basis upon which we reward and allocate the largest financial gains ever seen in modern history? Is the work of a single Jeff Bezos that much more valuable than the armies of men and women who work for a few dollars per hour / per day growing, harvesting, and transporting the food for the supply chains that service Whole Foods and/or even end up on Mr. Bezos plate?

These are difficult questions with no easy answers, but are questions we must think deeply on if we truly want to address inequality, of all types, in this historic moment. 

Erik Anderson, Anderson Exports, USA

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