The people of Britain voted for a British exit from the European Union (EU) in a historic referendum on 23 June 2016. What does the Brexit as labelled by all, mean for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland countries and their peoples? How about each and every aspect of its life and relations with its neighbouring countries of Europe? Could Empire 2.0 for the Brexit from the European Union be the panacea? What about all those countries of the MENA region that never adhered to the Commonwealth proper and yet were and still are either under or within the British sphere of influence?
Here is a view from The Conversation as narrated by Stan Neal , Teaching Fellow in Colonial/Global History, University of Leicester on the present happenings following that seismic Brexit vote. This is literally trying the British parliamentary system to an unprecedented straining level. The Conversation reviews the historical background of the currently debated rebound jump as a palliative replacement to the now vanishing away EU.
As Britain prepares to leave the EU, its new international trade secretary is talking up the potential of trade with the 52 nations that make up the old British empire. Some have even dubbed Liam Fox’s meeting with Commonwealth leaders to discuss trade “Empire 2.0”.
There is an irony here. It comes at a time when populist critiques of the economic consequences of globalisation are frequently combined with nostalgia for Britain’s imperial past. But these views neglect the fact that the British Empire was itself a key agent for economic globalisation and the mass movement of migrant workers in the 19th century.
There appears to be a consensus that Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US are the result of low and middle income workers rejecting globalisation – specifically the integration of economies, industries and markets, and the connected movement of goods and workers across national borders.
Brexit is framed as a “backlash” against globalisation, led by those who have been “left behind” as they struggle to find jobs due to competition from migrant workers, while traditional manufacturing jobs move overseas.
At the same time, the historical links afforded by the British Empire have been presented as an alternative to economic over-reliance on Europe. Since the referendum, these Commonwealth nations have been described as “desperate” to agree to free trade deals. And Fox’s meeting with 30 Commonwealth ministers in London appears to confirm that there is more than just imperial nostalgia at play.
Overlooking some facts
There are two big issues with the imperialist view of Britain’s global future. It is based on an over positive view of the British Empire. As argued by the academic Alan Lester, public discussion of Britain’s imperial past tends to focus on positive rather than negative aspects. Plus, it tends to overlook the historical role of the British Empire in facilitating economic globalisation and mass migration.
The First Opium War (1839-1842) is among the most infamous examples of the British Empire’s role in economic globalisation. The opium trade involved private companies smuggling the highly addictive, and prohibited, drug from British India to China. When the Chinese destroyed British-owned opium in an attempt to stop the trade, the British government dispatched gunboats to both restore national honour and guarantee access to this lucrative export market.
At the end of the conflict, in which Britain’s naval technology ensured a decisive victory, the Treaty of Nanjing opened up China’s economy to the world. The treaty required large compensation payments from China, ceded the island of Hong Kong to the British, opened five Chinese treaty ports to foreign trade and ensured that British subjects in China were protected by British laws.
This opening of China to British traders was a key moment in economic globalisation. The Treaty of Nanjing was the first of a number of “unequal treaties” that saw China grant similar concessions to foreign powers. In Chinese history it is seen as the start of China’s “century of humiliation” at the hands of foreign imperialism.
Free trade, free movement
British advocates of opening China to foreign trade, such as the opium smuggler James Matheson, criticised the Chinese market as an archaic monopoly. The Opium War was justified as part of the necessary destruction of economic protectionism, which was heavily criticised by British proponents of free trade.
But the free movement of British goods into China was matched by the movement of people out of China. The opening of the Treaty Ports to foreign powers, economic crisis in Southern China (a consequence of the opium trade) and the discovery of gold in various colonial locations provided the context for some of the largest mass migrations of the 19th century.
A popular destination for Chinese migrants were the British colonies in Australia. Around 55,000 migrants left southern China for Australia between 1851 and 1875. But Chinese immigration met with opposition from Australia’s white working class. Beginning in Victoria in 1855, the second half of the 19th century saw a series of colonial measures designed to prevent Chinese immigration. This culminated in the White Australia policy in 1901.
The contradiction between the British Empire’s role as an agent of economic globalisation and the opposition of white colonists to Chinese immigration was pointed out by Chinese migrants in 1879. In response to the exclusionary political rhetoric sweeping Australia, Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Chong and Louis Ah Mouy argued:
This outflow of our population was never sought by us. Western powers, armed with the formidable artillery with which modern science has supplied them, battered down the portals of the empire; and, having done so, insisted upon keeping them open.
Empire, economic globalisation and mass migration were connected.
The British Empire did not just open economic markets to trade, it facilitated the movement of migrant workers in the 19th century and beyond. To suggest that the empire offers a potential model for Britain’s role in the world today is to misunderstand this history.
After the US elections back in November of last year, it is the turn to the French ones next May. Emmanuel Macron, a young independent centrist has created some wages whilst on a short visit to Algiers last week. That country over the years with its capital city Algiers became one of the obligatory corridors for a French Presidential candidate. This week, in London, the other pre-election campaign stop-off for the French highest magistrate’s investiture, the 39 year old hopeful gathered the French diaspora and told them he wanted “banks, talents, researchers, academics” to move across the Channel once the Brexit is completed and that his ‘programmes’ would include all of them expats back home. Meanwhile most European observers regard the French poll as the most critical of all European elections for the future of the EU whereas most influential Algerian media appeared to have approved, appreciating that stance of his, seemingly helping to free them from the present ruling elite continuously dwelling on that ‘colonial’ past.
The Conversation in an article written by Itay Lotem, post-doctoral Fellow in French Language and Culture, University of Westminster, UK and published on February 22, 2017 in which he reviewed Macron’s political stance on the controversial issue of today’s France relation to its heavy handed colonial past hang-ups of today. This article is reproduced below with thanks to the author and courtesy to ‘The Conversation’.
Emmanuel Macron has suddenly found himself as the new poster boy of Europe’s beleaguered political centre. The insiders’ outsider, if you like. From Marseille to London thousands have been flocking to hear this insurgent presidential candidate for the French speak.
But just as pundits began to accept the bid from the former investment banker and minister of economy during the first half of François Hollande’s presidency, a new controversy about the interpretation of colonial history has tested Macron’s electoral appeal, and demonstrated that France’s colonial ghosts are alive and kicking.
On February 15, in an interview with the TV channel Echorouk News during a visit to Algeria, Macron followed protocol and spoke about his desire to “build a bridge” between France and its former colony. But in doing so, he addressed the subject of colonialism. He backtracked on a previous comment about the “richness” of colonial Algeria to brandish colonialism a “crime against humanity”.
Losing no time, a choir of commentators from the right interjected to castigate Macron for his “shameful” lack of patriotism. François Fillon, the candidate for the centre-right Les Républicains, sensed an opportunity to divert attention from his own scandals to brandish Macron’s words as “hateful” of France, and demonstrating that he had “no spinal cord”.
To dramatise things further, Macron was on his way to the southeastern France, an area where there is substantial support for the right-wing Front National, led by Marine Le Pen. The region has a large concentration of pieds-noirs, or former European settlers from Algeria, who still nurture a sense of resentment over French “abandonment” of its colony. As scenes of a demonstration of pied-noir activists in the town of Carpentras reached the press, this latest spat turned into a full-on controversy and Macron suffered in the polls.
Macron’s visit to Toulon on February 19 was disrupted.
This chain of events reflects Macron’s volatile position as the centrist in this election campaign. The former-socialist-turned-independent has succeeded in detaching his public image from his record as a minister in the Hollande government. His forward-looking attitude stands in sharp contrast to the projects of political nostalgia of Le Pen and Fillon. He has succeeded in attracting a truly diverse coalition of voters from left and right alike.
This success, however, is fragile. Recent polls show that only 33% of voters who consider voting for Macron are sure they will do so on election day, while his centrist position has attracted comments on Twitter such as: “Trying to be everywhere, he ends up being nowhere.” In this context, remarks about colonial history seemed to be a way for Macron to appeal to a younger, left-leaning electorate by talking about social issues beyond his normal focus on economic reform.
At first glance, Macron’s initial comments align with condemnation of colonial history that has become a marker of France’s political left in recent years. In 2005, the then left-wing opposition belatedly united to oppose a government bill, initiated by pied-noir associations, which ordered schools to stress the “positive role” of France’s “overseas presence”. The law was eventually dropped but the debate that emerged created new political fronts.
The right wing UMP (which has since changed its name to Les Républicains) ignored its history as the party of Charles de Gaulle, the president who had signed the 1962 Evian Agreements and retreated from Algeria to support the law. At the same time, the socialists skirted over their party’s historical support of colonialism and the Algerian War to portray themselves as a party of inherent anti-colonialists.
This same dynamic continued in 2012. Shortly after winning the presidency, Hollande organised a state visit to Algeria, in which he expressed his regrets over the “profoundly unjust and brutal” colonial system. Left-wing reactions to his speech back in France celebrated him as a part of the “left without complexes or compromises on the subject of the country’s colonial past”. Meanwhile, the same right-wing politicians who had initiated the 2005 law deplored his act of “repentance”.
A loaded term
Even Macron’s use of the term “crime against humanity”, which many observers denounced as inappropriate, goes back to a series of legislative actions to re-define France’s colonial past, most notably the 2001 law brought forward by the socialist Christiane Taubira that defined transatlantic slavery as a crime against humanity. In this context, it is unsurprising that France’s current minister for families, Laurence Rossignol, declared that Macron’s words were a way to “declare his affiliation to the left” by stressing his “anticolonial” credentials.
Macron’s reaction to the controversy suggests he had not intended to take a stand on a decidedly anti-colonial platform. On February 18, in Toulon, another pied-noir centre in southeastern France, he paraphrased an old speech of De Gaulle in Algeria as he backtracked and apologised to those offended by his first analogy: “je vous ai compris” (I understood you).
Macron’s foray into the politics of memory was ill-conceived at best. Over the last decade, the debate about colonialism has exacerbated the polarisation of French politics and left no space for a search of any middle ground. In entering this quagmire, Macron was destined to be pulled into a barren debate about a “balance sheet” of colonialism where politicians express political allegiances by addressing France’s historical past as simply “good” or bad”.
Nonetheless, there might be another reason for Macron’s initial stance: his age. Unlike most voices in these loud fights about colonial history, Macron is too young to have experienced any of the events of decolonisation and its aftermath first-hand. He grew up in a society that engaged with the memory of colonialism rather than with its actual violence. As such, he is comfortable speaking about “facing up to history”, thinking that colonialism truly is consigned to the past. This could be the position of a true centrist in 21st century France.
AMEinfo came up with this formidable vision of next year titled 16 events that will shape 2017; we could not help but reproduce it here all for the benefit of our readers. All comments are welcome but we would advise to address direct to AMEinfo with nevertheless a copy to MENA-Forum.
AMEinfo, is a well known and reliable middle east online medium of information.
Historically as per Wikipedia, AMEinfo.com was initially Arabian Modern Equipment Est., incorporated in Abu Dhabi, in February 1993 by Saif Al-Suwaidi and Klaus Lovgreen. The first version of the AME Info CD-ROM database of 125,000 companies was developed and compiled late 1996 and sold some 10,000 copies.
The listing of the events as proposed by AMEinfo summed up thus.
Many events of 2016 will have repercussions spilling over into 2017
Positive impacts include Saudi Vision 2030, OPEC deal
The fallout of Trump’s presidency, JASTA law, Italy referendum, etc. remain to be seen
The year 2016 was eventful, to say the least, with the world shaken by several momentous events whose repercussions will spill over into 2017.
Here are 16 events of 2016 that will most probably shape the coming year:
Saudi Vision 2030
This vision, announced in April, is one of the top economic highlights of 2016. Its repercussions are yet to be experienced throughout 2017 and beyond. Some of the biggest follow ups to this event are the Saudi Aramco IPO, expected to take place in 2018, privatising Football Clubs in the kingdom and its green card plan.
Trump as president of the United States
President-elect Donald Trump filling posts for his administration, getting ready to officially take office in January. This is when his foreign policy is expected to take its final shape and impact the whole world, starting with countries of the Americas, passing through Europe and the Middle East and reaching Asia.
The United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union last June through a national referendum. Since then, the country underwent several months of economic chaos that it tried to keep under control, especially because it had not yet left the European Union. The chaos is expected to continue until the announcement of an exit plan, expected in March 2017.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act is a law passed by the United States Congress, allowing survivors and relatives of victims of terrorist attacks to pursue cases against foreign governments in the US federal court. The bill raised tensions with Saudi Arabia – when the bill was introduced, Saudi Arabia threatened to sell up to $750 billion in United States Treasury securities and other US assets if the bill is passed. Saudi Arabia is still lobbying the US over the law.
Egypt’s floating of the pound
Egypt’s central bank floated the pound currency in November, devaluing by 32.3 percent to an initial guidance level of EGP 13 to the dollar and hiking interest rates by three per cent to rebalance currency markets following weeks of turbulence. According to many observers, Egypt’s floating of its currency comes in a bid to attract more investors to the country.
China’s AIIB development bank
China launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a new international development bank, seen as a rival to the current, US-led World Bank. Countries such as Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Philippines and South Korea agreed to join the AIIB, recognising China’s growing economic strength.
Last August, Google announced creating a new public holding company, Alphabet. Alphabet become the mother of a collection of companies, including Google, which includes the search engine, YouTube and other apps; Google X, the Alphabet arm working on big breakthroughs in the industry; Google Capital, the investment arm; as well as Fiber, Calcio, Nest and Google Ventures.
Panama papers leak
Roughly 11.5 million documents were leaked in April, detailing financial and attorney-client information for hundreds of thousands of offshore entities. The documents contained personal financial information about famous, wealthy individuals and public officials.
The documents were created by a law firm in Panama, with some dating back to the 1970s.
Iran nuclear deal: lifting of sanctions
Although the framework of this agreement was announced in 2015, economic sanctions started to lift only in January 2016. The year saw the beginning of Iran’s return to international markets and more is expected for 2017 as the country has not yet made a full comeback.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones, released this year, started to heat up and explode, causing some injuries in different markets around the world and killing the model altogether. This created massive chaos for the South-Korean manufacturer, which withdrew all units from the markets and started a gruelling investigation into the rootcause of the issue.
King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Bridge
Last April, Saudi Arabia and Egypt agreed to build a bridge over the Red Sea, linking the two countries together. This was seen as a historic move highlighting the excellent relationship between the allies. The bridge would be called “King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Bridge”.
Members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC members as well, reached their first deal since 2001, to curb levels of oil output to ease a global glut after oversupply pressured prices for more than two years. Long-term market reactions to the deal are yet to be felt and will probably be seen throughout 2017.
The new augmented reality game, developed by Niantic, quickly became a global phenomenon and was one of the most profitable apps of 2016, with more than 500 million downloads worldwide.
Italy’s government, led by then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, held a nation-wide referendum proposing reforms and amendments to the country’s constitution. The referendum failed, leading to the resignation of Renzi, tipping the country into potential political turmoil and the rise of the populist, right-wing movement in the country.
Renzi’s resignation and the country’s instability also brought up concerns over a looming banking crisis in Italy, the third-largest national economy in the euro zone.
The US Federal Reserve raised interest rates, signalling a faster pace of increases in 2017, with central banks adapting to the incoming of a Donald Trump administration, which has promised to cut tax. The year 2017 will probably see the repercussion of that decision.
A coup d’état was attempted in Turkey in July against state organisations including the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The failed coup was carried out by a faction of Turkey’s armed forces, who attempted to seize control of several areas in the capital of Ankara, Istanbul and elsewhere.
The coup, and other terrorist attacks, disturbed Turkey’s peace and stability and harmed its tourism industry, among others.
The BBC today reported that net migration to the UK is at an all-time high, reaching 330,000 in the year to March, the Office for National Statistics has said. The figure – the difference between the number entering the country and those leaving – is more than three times higher than the government’s target.
McKinsey has produced this article on the topic of migration of people within their own countries and / or from one country onto another for reasons that are very often quite understandable. As per this article and with reference to McKinsey’s proposed graph sourced through the UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs and others, one can see that with respect to movement of populations, globalisation as it were of people is definitely at work.
By Jonathan Woetzel, Anu Madgavkar, Khaled Rifai, Frank Mattern, Jacques Bughin, James Manyika, Tarek Elmasry, Amadeo Di Lodovico, and Ashwin Hasyagar
Migration has become a flashpoint for debate in many countries. But McKinsey Global Institute research finds that it generates significant economic benefits—and more effective integration of immigrants could increase those benefits.
Migration is a key feature of our increasingly interconnected world. It has also become a flashpoint for debate in many countries, which underscores the importance of understanding the patterns of global migration and the economic impact that is created when people move across the world’s borders. A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), People on the move: Global migration’s impact and opportunity, aims to fill this need.
Refugees might be the face of migration in the media, but 90 percent of the world’s 247 million migrants have moved across borders voluntarily, usually for economic reasons. Voluntary migration flows are typically gradual, placing less stress on logistics and on the social fabric of destination countries than refugee flows. Most voluntary migrants are working-age adults, a characteristic that helps raise the share of the population that is economically active in destination countries.
By contrast, the remaining 10 percent are refugees and asylum seekers who have fled to another country to escape conflict and persecution. Roughly half of the world’s 24 million refugees are in the Middle East and North Africa, reflecting the dominant pattern of flight to a neighboring country. But the recent surge of arrivals in Europe has focused the developed world’s attention on this issue. A companion report, Europe’s new refugees: A road map for better integration outcomes, examines the challenges and opportunities confronting individual countries.
While some migrants travel long distances from their origin countries, most migration still involves people moving to neighboring countries or to countries in the same part of the world (exhibit). About half of all migrants globally have moved from developing to developed countries—indeed, this is the fastest-growing type of movement. Almost two-thirds of the world’s migrants reside in developed countries, where they often fill key occupational shortages. From 2000 to 2014, immigrants contributed 40 to 80 percent of labor-force growth in major destination countries.
Moving more labor to higher-productivity settings boosts global GDP. Migrants of all skill levels contribute to this effect, whether through innovation and entrepreneurship or through freeing up natives for higher-value work. In fact, migrants make up just 3.4 percent of the world’s population, but MGI’s research finds that they contribute nearly 10 percent of global GDP. They contributed roughly $6.7 trillion to global GDP in 2015—some $3 trillion more than they would have produced in their origin countries. Developed nations realize more than 90 percent of this effect.
An executive summary of this study can be downloaded here.
The G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, on September 4th and 5th, 2016 . . . A success for China, but hard issues kicked down the road : Reuters.
“Engines of growth of the previous cycle of technological progress slow down gradually and the new cycle of technological and industrial revolution has not yet fully started” : Xi Jiping Chinese President announced at the start of the G20 where The World’s New Geo-Strategic Objectives are high on everyone’s agenda.
I remember that we had G7, later on G8 by including Russia, and then to the G20.
This article is available to members of MENA-Forum only.
The wish, in the face of the seemingly long lasting fall of the price of oil, would be some smooth ‘snap of fingers’ change in the policy of the Algerian Government that sped up reforms in order to avoid destabilization of the country and potentially the region. This was confirmed to me during my conference at the invitation of the European Parliament and recently by officials of the European Union (EU). Certainly, action against terrorism of the ANP and security forces is strongly welcomed by the international community, but in the future to share expenses by a regional agreement. It was however never a question of either the EU or the USA to freeze economic cooperation with Algeria.
According to POLITICO, citing an anonymous source in the EU, Brussels would undertake to help Algeria to combat immigration, which affects the European continent, to diversify its economy, to provide financial support and would try to develop investment plans in exchange for an economic opening of the country in the energy sector in return for a security of supply in gas. According to European officials cited in the article, Algeria has only two choices: either develop its gas production and become “the Norway of the South” for the EU, or leave its gas industry decline, and due to growth in its domestic demand, turn into a net importer of this product. Meanwhile Europe (ditto for the USA) remains very critical of the 51 / 49 percent rule, that always gives the advantage to SONATRACH and to Algeria on all exploited deposits related contractual arrangements, Algerian legislation being considered “the worst of all regions.
According to this same source, the current Algerian Government, focusing not on the ground but rather on laws as per its prevalent bureaucratic jurisdictional vision, whereas it is a matter to address the malfunctioning of the social body, it went for timid structural reforms, instead of to develop its renewable energy production to meet the internal demand and diversify its economy to get out oil exports rentier revenues, thus avoiding high social tension. This assessment is by no mean new since at the last EU / Algeria meeting on energy, a few months ago, the EU experts had already made it clear that even if Europe opened its borders, what would Algeria export outside the hydrocarbons. They did make known that immediately the fixed long term contracts which expire between 2018/2019, Algeria as does already Russia (Berlin agreement) for a part of its explorations in gas are in line with the so-called “spot” free market.
Also at the meeting of Algiers, the need to move towards energy efficiency (savings of 20 / 30%) had been highlighted with the option of a local energy Mix, encouragement of renewable energy and review the policy of subsidies, and any ensuing balance exported. As per the current law of hydrocarbons (any law is never retroactive) with international disputes cascading over SONATRACH, that was developed in the $100 a barrel of oil context had now to be relaxed especially with respect to taxation with a view to encourage both private national and international investment.
This would concern other competitive sectors to define clearly what is strategic and what it is not; the new investment code and the mining sector with high investment costs, and low profit, unlike the utopian and speculative view of the current Minister of Industry, would have little impact without comprehensive reforms aimed at improving the business climate. For the Algerian Government, POLITICO’s comments are “subjective and incongruous speculation” reminding “the structuring and sustainable relationship between Algeria with the EU in the field of energy is highly strategic in nature and certainly set itself above subjective speculation. Europe must avoid this mercantilist vision and through a win / win partnership help Algeria settle a productive economy and stabilize its social body as provided for by the association agreement that implies a revision of the existing accords, and not to question the overall architecture.
According to the reading of international experts, the most important message is not related to energy, but concerns rather the geo-strategic stakes in the region, including their safety aspects. Indeed, without structural reforms, there is no effective economic stimulus, that could lead to serious social tensions which could destabilize the entire region to end up with a massive Algerian immigration to Europe. This would explain the wish for non-oil related investments linked to the reforms on behalf of the EU (seeing to its own interests) but to also those of the US. It is by the way a strategic mistake, in this twenty-first century, to oppose the USA to Europe about Algeria and North Africa generally.
Tactical but non-strategic differences exist however. Algeria for the major powers is a great country of which the Algerians themselves do not always seem to measure its importance, and who should play in the future the role of a pivotal country in the Mediterranean region and Africa. This would require more than morality of officials, speeding up the micro-economic and institutional reforms, reorientation of economic policy taking into account the new mutations, in energy, economic, and global policies.
The various analyses of the World Bank, the IMF, the EU, do not teach us much, but only reiterated those made previously by many Algerian experts (see our different contributions 2010/2016).
But the required Algerian reforms do not depend on the EU but on Algerians before all else and this requires a clear political will for a controlled liberalization reconciling economic efficiency and deep social justice through the strategic role of the State in its regulatory role.
Indeed, a careful reading of the contents of POLITICO’s article shows that it is a win-win partnership, that is the guarantor of the stability of Algeria and hence the region, through a change for a healthy Governance which will accelerate reforms, assuming a certain coherence and visibility in its approach, a strategic vision of political, security and economic, whilst taking account of the new world and a minimum of social consensus.
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