Summitry? But to what end?

By Carlton Joseph


Congratulations to President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un on the recently concluded summit.  The pragmatic Trump finally arrived at this meeting – at least for a very brief moment.  That same week Trump showed his belligerent, bullying side to America’s allies.  He refused to sign a joint statement with the G-7, escalated a trade war and derided  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak.”  With his adversary, Un, he signed a joint statement that contained polite diplomatic language but was otherwise largely vague.

Prior to this historic meeting with Un, the Trump administration had emphasized that the US goal was complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear program.  Un’s position was “phased and synchronous” or “action-for-action” approach to giving up his nuclear weapons.   This would involve the international community compensating Pyongyang for every step it took on the road to abandoning the program, rather than waiting until after complete denuclearization to give North Korea economic rewards.  Un was able to keep the CVID out of the joint statement.

Trump said the trip had been a “very positive experience,” and there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea and that everybody can feel much safer than the day he took office.  He announced that the United States will suspend its joint military exercises with South Korea and emphasized that he was ready to end the “war games” because he thought “they were very provocative” and “very expensive.”

Un remarked: “We are signing a document where we get to move on from the past and mark a new start at this historic meeting,” and expressed his “gratitude” to Trump for the meeting.

Some US analysts commented that if the point of the meeting was to bring the world demonstrably closer to resolving the North Korea crisis, then that didn’t happen. North Korea took no steps, even rhetorical, toward disarming and the United States also made no concrete, long-term changes; and the freeze on exercises can be easily reversed.

President Moon Jae-in of  South Korea said the “two Koreas and US will write a new history of peace and co-operation.”  Russia warned that the “devil is in the detail.”   Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarded the agreement as a “first step” towards denuclearization but said more needed to be done.  China suggested that sanctions against Pyongyang could be lifted since the UN Security Council resolutions that have been passed say that if North Korea respects and acts in accordance with the resolutions; then sanction measures can be adjusted, including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions.  Tehran urged North Korea to proceed with caution after its recent experience with its own nuclear deal with the US. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said “This is an important step in the effort to strip the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weaponry.”  I wonder why he does not remove his nukes from the Middle East.

As usual the hardliners in the US, Democrats and Republicans, believe that Trump did not get anything and Un got what he wanted.  They insist that Un outmaneuvered Trump.  The video presentation by the US showed the total stupidity of the White House staffers who failed to comprehend that Un is the Supreme leader of North Korea with the power to name his successor.  Using boats, and other materialistic overtures to entice him is totally ignorant.  He can buy whatever he wishes from wherever and whomever he wishes.  Some countries may be forced not to sell him things, but that is why neutral countries exist, to supply materials and other products to countries that are under sanctions.  How do you think Amsterdam gets drugs even though they are banned substances?

The media talking heads appear not to understand the dynamics of the two countries Un has more power over his country than. Trump.   The United States President can make all kinds of pronouncements and declarations, but when he gets back to the US he has to deal with the Congress.  They can modify and or nullify whatever statements he made.  When. Un makes a pronouncement or declaration, it becomes the law or policy.  To expect him to give up nuclear weapons on Trump’s statements is ridiculous and suicidal.  More important, Un does not have to deal with elections and bureaucrats diluting or modifying his statements.  Both sides were vague and that is what we should expect from the first meeting between these two leaders.   The key is that talks have begun.

In my last article, I indicated that trade is war, whereby nations seek to extract wealth from each other.  Economists define trade in goods and services as change in ownership of material resources and services between one economy and another.  Let’s review the global trade environment so that we can understand. Trump’s attitude toward the G-7.

The World Economic Forum reports that world trade has experienced a significant slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis.  Over this period, the global ratio of trade expansion to income growth has halved.  In addition, the recent failure by WTO member governments to reach agreement on a continuation of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations has left the international community without a shared agenda for the future evolution of the global trading system.  In fact, the governments involved are uneasy about this lack of a common strategic vision, and are concerned about where the current dynamic of “competitive liberalization” will lead. In other words, the system that maintains the G-7 dominance is failing.

Trump might inadvertently be helping these G-7 countries, because the current arrangement is totally dependent on the US being the engine of growth for the G-7 in particular, and the rest of the world in general.  These G-7 economies were badly damaged by the financial crisis because they are tied to the US economy.  The economies of Canada, Italy France and the United Kingdom (UK) are small, and they need to diversify their exports and expand their trade outside of the US to ensure economic growth.  In addition, the US is unable to maintain her rate of consumption because US workers’ wages have been flat or even falling for decades, regardless of whether the economy has been adding or subtracting jobs.

Since its’ founding, the US has never made a treaty that it believed was permanent.  By tearing up the Iran nuclear deal despite sustained indication of Iranian compliance, and by reneging on agreements even with long-term allies, abandoning NAFTA, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and escalating the Trade war with the G-7, the United States has increased suspicions that it cannot be trusted to make arms-control agreements or any other type of agreement.

The US abandons treaties when she thinks it does not serve her interest.  When the gold standard did not serve herm she abandoned it. When treaties with Native Americans did not serve her interest she abandoned it.  Trump does not see NAFTA or G-7 as serving US interests and will probably abandon it.

Members of the G-7 must recognize that the dependence on the US as the engine of growth is no longer tenable. The idea that seven countries could dictate the future of the world’s economy is ridiculous, especially when China’s GDP is larger than the combined GDP of Germany, Japan, and the UK.  Brazil; Russia; India; China and South Africa (BRICS) cover 40 per cent of the world’s population, more than 25 per cent of the world’s land and represents 30 per cent of the world’s GDP and they are not members of this ‘elite’ club.   Trump’s insistence that Russia be reinstated in this club is interesting since Russia’s GDP is 1.8 trillion.  Is it because they are Caucasian?

Canada and developing countries need to diversify and stop allowing themselves to be treated as US colonials.

(Trinidad-born Carlton  Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a  close observer of political  developments in the United States.)