Do you remember Atak? Founded in 1998 in France, the network attacked the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, and continued to demonstrate at/against one summit after another, including the EU meeting in Gothenburg in 2001. They turned against increased international cooperation and demanded a “Tobin tax” on International currency transactions to prevent capital flows between countries.
Today, that’s exactly what’s happening, except for Tobin – and it’s a terrible world around us. Not to mention what awaits us after the end of the year.
In Russia, glasnost, perestroika, and the breakup of the Soviet Union brought much hope. At seminars in former “forbidden places,” I heard people hoping for freedom and influence — and better economic conditions. Russia concluded a cooperation agreement with the European Union in 1997, and joined the World Trade Organization in 2012.
But then he turned around. The “little green men” in Crimea and Donbass indicated that economic considerations had been put aside. The Russian invasion of Ukraine destabilized the entire security system that had been established after the fall of the Wall.
National prestige trumps peaceful progress.
China’s entry into the global economy has been even more impressive. I went to Beijing after the fall of the Gang of Four, but in 1978 there were only two hotels for Westerners in the capital. Deng Xiaoping’s strong measures to open up the economy and ease arbitrary repression have raised expectations. The Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 was ominous, but after that it seemed like the trade caravan was moving forward.
The US presidential election is the sword of Damocles hanging over 2024
Once again, hopes were dashed. Xi Jinping has tightened the screws, and they are getting tighter. He pushes the country and the party against the one-man cult that Deng broke, ignores promises made by Hong Kong and makes clear that they must be prepared to let Taiwan go down the same path. It does not matter that growth numbers decline and investments from abroad decline. Once again, prestige comes first.
However, the worst part is that it is not just about Russia and China. Donald Trump’s presidency shows just how open even the West is. Protectionism spread, isolationism spread.
The US presidential election is the sword of Damocles hanging over the year 2024. If Trump wins the elections, he has threatened his domestic and foreign enemies with revenge for all wrongs. He promised to impose a 10% tariff on all imports to the United States, which would risk plunging the world into a deep depression. Make America Great Again – no matter how the economy is doing, including yours.
It’s very annoying. The setbacks of globalization have gone hand in hand with attacks on world peace. Protectionism, prestige and isolationism threaten the most important values of civilization.
Will the small country on the northern tip of Europe play any role? Yes, Sweden should do that. The European Union is not immune to anti-globalization. President Macron’s offer of strategic autonomy is close to troubling trends in the United States.
Through the European Union, Sweden must work for openness and international cooperation. On the gloom, negotiations on a free trade agreement between the European Union and Australia have faltered. It’s been going since 2018, but French meat farmers have overcome free trade for profit.
It is a small, but significant, setback that Sweden has to face in the face of small-scale protectionism in its periphery.
Gunnar Vetterberg is a freelance columnist for Expressen’s editorial page. Read more of his texts here.