Posted tagged ‘globalization’

FAIR TRADE AND THE NATION-STATE

April 28, 2008

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

In a recently written book by me titled Fair Trade and Food Security: Framework and Policy Architecture (Kaisampalad, 2004), I was able to gather clear evidences of the failures of free trade policies. Not only free trade but the whole policy regime of economic liberalization—that paved the way to globalization—had downgrading effects on our currency, agriculture, and industry here in my home country.

 

I argued right then for a policy reform in the direction of fair trade. The totality of policy change should be the re-crafting of the entire policy architecture, which if commensurately followed can become fitful guides for foreign policy and diplomacy.

 

In the light of the massive acceptance of liberalization policy frameworks in the 80s and 90s, I gave their advocates a chance to prove the potency of free trade and laissez faire in general. In the long run, free trade is unsustainable, and can only be perpetuated, as shown by the experiences of the previous centuries, by imperialism.

 

Autarchy, which was experimented in the Hapsburg empire, is more of a hermitage option that can work only if, as the Hapsburg had fittingly shown, the domain for intra-trade exchange and distribution is large enough. The option, even for nationalist economics, is for the conduct of overseas trade. But whether his has to be a free trade option is contentious.

 

The British Empire, which calls itself by the euphemy British Commonwealth of Nations, is still alive today. That empire was built precisely because it is the only way by which Great Britain, or England, can sustain its trading edge through the power of the ‘stick’. But this empire, the last among the ancien regime formations, is now crumbling, and cannot hold water for long as the member nations continue to assert their sovereignty.

 

Globalization based on free trade had already crumbled, as we can see. Unless there is another perception out there. It had failed. What I am arguing for now is that globalization can succeed only if it takes into consideration the interests of nations and marginal sectors within them rather than be based on the interests of a chosen few of financier oligarchs and their TNCs.

 

The contention from the article New Nationalism is shown en toto below.

 

Let ‘unbridled free trade’ give way to ‘fair trade’.

 

In the international trade scene, the President had declared it emphatically: “no to unbridled free trade!” Fair trade should be the game in trade, not free trade. This does not mean a full return to protectionism, which proved counterproductive in the past. Protectionism had only served rent-seekers, who did not engage in full-scale S&T innovations that could have propelled us to advance in product development, achieving world-class standards in many of our articles of industry & trade quite early. Returning to a regime of protectionism is surely out of the question.

 

Permit articles of imports to come in, employ this strategy to meet ‘commodity security’ and keep prices at competitive rates, while minimizing the possibility of shocks. This should also challenge domestic market players to become more competitive, precisely by engaging in dynamic research & development or R&D, resulting to higher-level product innovations (intended for the domestic market). Meanwhile, continue to institute a regime of ‘safety nets’ and strengthen those that have already been erected. However, where ‘infantile enterprises’ are barely out of the take-off stage, e.g. petrochemicals and upstream steel, provide certain tariff protection, but set limits up to that point when dynamic R & D have made production more cost-efficient, permitting thereafter competitiveness in both the domestic and global market. The latest move of government to provide the greatest incentives on upstream steel, for instance, is a right move, as it will entice market forces to install our long-delayed integrated steelworks.

 

DOMAIN OF WEALTH OF NATIONS: BOTH DOMESTIC & OVERSEAS

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

 

The antiquated debate regarding which domain should be the main source of national wealth—whether domestic or overseas—is still alive today. In the article of New Nationalism, I argued that in the emerging context of post-industrialism, this debate has become futile and unproductive. Instead of stressing a domestic versus international mindset, I argued for a both/and frame.

 

Admittedly, the overseas domain as a source of wealth is as palatable as it used to be during the era yet of the city-states of Northern Italy (Venice, Florence). This has become the backbone of mercantilism, which in turn became the backbone of nationalist economics. Old Nationalism henceforth carried the pro-mercantilist banner of seeking wealth primarily from international operations. But this time around, this position has to be revised in the light of import-substitution success.

 

In the Philippine case, we have been having it both ways. On the one hand, our manufacturing sector’s products are largely consumed 86% of the time for the domestic market, indicating the optimization of the import-substitution aspect of our development efforts. On the other hand, our overseas employment and investments have been churning out a whopping Net Factor Income from Abroad or NFIA worth 11% of the GDP.

 

New Nationalism, to my mind, should rather have it both ways, as culled from this and other parallel experiences in emerging markets. At this time particularly, Foreign Direct Investments or FDIs by Philippine-owned or controlled companies has begun to take off and contribute to our national coffers. Add to this our exports worth 40% of GDP, and remittances from labor export of worth 10% of GDP, and one can see the broad picture of the potency of the overseas domain as source of national income.

 

Below is the entire subsection on the domains of wealth production culled from the New Nationalism article.

 

Generate wealth from both external and domestic markets.

 

Various stakeholders in the past were divided along the question of what should be the driver of growth & development (demand-side discourse): the external, or internal market? The followers of the ‘externalists’ were the ones behind the export-oriented development strategy, whose rationalizations for massive exports were quite poor recycles of the mercantilist contention that wealth should be produced more from out of the external markets (colonies during the time of empires). The ‘internalists’ were the ones behind import-substitution strategies, whose rationalizations were poor photocopies of Keynesian demand-side formulations.

 

In today’s context, it is wiser to view both the external and domestic markets as synergistic spheres for accumulating national wealth and meeting head-on the demands for delivering welfare. The external market discourse can work only in circumstances where a domestic demand has failed to develop, which in our case was the pre-1990s economy. By the late 1990s, it was clear that a significant change had taken place on the demand side of our economy, as folks were buying a lot of articles of commerce at a time of crisis. The middle class population is rising relative to the entire population, whose households’ needs have become more differentiated and have leaped beyond the bounds of ‘rice-and-galunggong’ expenditures. Today, Filipino families purchase around fifty-three percentum (53%) of their household needs from supermarkets, malls and large retail centers, even as the wet markets and sari-sari stores are declining in importance. These changes are real, and we cannot be blind to them by continuing to harp on an export-driven growth.

 

We must then fast-track large-scale redistribution schemes, such as to witness the rise in purchasing powers of our own people. This cannot be done outright during the next three (3) years, as we face a fiscal dilemma of crisis proportions. But beyond 2007 lies new opportunity fields. The fiscal route to stabilization will have been solidly achieved by then, and the nation can embark on more ambitious endeavors aimed at increasing incomes, reducing unemployment and poverty and increasing domestic consumption.

 

As the domestic market catches up in stabilizing the economy and producing national wealth, stakeholders shouldn’t be remiss in improving the competitiveness of our export products. Our great advantage is that we have ample supplies of skilled labor, with wages still relatively low. The power sector is also quite rich in supply of electricity, even as new projects are now being planned to neutralize possible supply problems in the short run. Hopefully, power supply would stabilize and electricity cost would decrease, contributing thus to rendering our exportable articles more competitive enough. Save for capital goods and petroleum, large volumes of which our producers continue to import, the other factors of production are within our hands to control and manipulate, inclusive of rent and interest rate. It is hereby argued that, with such factors controllable enough, we can optimize conditions for rendering our exportable articles maximally competitive and continue to permit the external market to be a source of substantial wealth. What more if we produce all of our essential capital goods, thus further bringing down the cost of production, given that the price of other factor inputs also go down?

 

BUILD STRONG NATIONS AMID GLOBALIZATION

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 22 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

In my meaty article on New Nationalism, I advanced fourteen (14) contentions in substantiation of what neo-nationalism is.

 

The first basic contention is that the nation-state can thrive and grow amid globalization. In other words, globalization shouldn’t lead to the destruction of nation-states. The trend since the start of massive implementation of liberal reforms leading to global integration of markets has been, in fact, the destruction of nation-states. This trend has to be stopped now.

 

There is really no reason to destroy the nations just so that our global community can be integrated. In the Philippine experience, nationalism has been a positive, progressive force that had united close to 100 ethno-linguistic communities. The Philippine nation had just lately crystallized, with a national identity now in shape though in moderate level, a phenomenon that took over 200 years to build.

 

There is no way that we can allow the massive destruction of nations today just in order to whet the appetites of the global oligarchy and their transnational corporations or TNCs for control over the world’s resources and labor. The conservation of nations must be a pre-requisite to building the ‘peace condition’ nationally and globally, guided by the principle of ‘dialogue of civilizations’.

 

On the other hand, amid the failings of globalization, we simply cannot go back to the past and destroy the integration efforts altogether. We can still move on towards a more progressive globalization that serves the interests of nations rather than the global oligarchy. Nations can derive benefits from integrated markets, we can’t overstress the risk-side of globalization at the expense of the benefit-side.

 

Somewhere along the line, the striving for stronger nations must cohere with the collective efforts for integrated markets. Later on, nations would compose an integrated political entity, the global state with its own global institutions.

 

Below is the excerpt from the New Nationalism article regarding the nation-state.

 

Strong nation can thrive & grow amid globalization.

 

The nation can continue to exist, even become strengthened, while it sails deep into the middle of the ocean of globalization. The two are not necessarily contradictory. Nationhood can continuously be pursued, patriotism can move ahead while paddling astride the powerful waves of globalization. For as earlier stated, globalization holds the promise of growth through the vast opportunities it has opened. Nations must strive to concur cooperation with other nations to extend the scope and limits of the opportunities, while at the same time build internal opportunities to further optimize inducements for investments.

 

Just recently, our entrepreneurs and professionals made waves through the international awards they respectively received, such as Tan Caktiong (top entrepreneur) and F. Palafox (the only ASEAN architect to make it to the world’s Top 200 architects), signifying the high level of competitiveness our compatriots are capable of achieving. Such sterling achievements surely inspire us to continue to strengthen nationhood and to forge new areas of cooperation and growth-inducing endeavors. While forces exist that work to tear the nation asunder, forces are likewise growing that lead to the nation’s strengthening. We should all work hard to make sure that the latter forces prevail, while neutralizing and diminishing the potencies of those forces that destroy nationhood.

THE NEO-NATIONALIST THEME

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Excerpts. Revised edition, Quezon City, Feb. 2008. Original version writ August 2004.]

 

 

ECHOING THE NEO-NATIONALIST THEME

 

This paper echoes the emerging discourse referred to as New Nationalism. Note that various writers have formulated theories anchored on New Nationalism. Their theories out-rightly impact on public policy and development practice, such as the framework articulated by Robert Reich (see The Work of Nations). Here at home, economists such as Emmanuel De Dios have begun to echo themes of harmonizing nationalism and globalization.  

 

The framework base of this paper will be (a) political economy combined with (b) institutionalism. The current approach of comparative political economy had proved to be a very instructive one, this being the most central framework in development studies and public policy studies, with its analytics carried out through cross-national methodology. This approach will also be integrated with the emerging cross-disciplinal trend of institutionalism, a framework that was actually started by sociologists, and is particularly strong in studies on civil society & development, state-society synergy and organization theory.

 

Being an Asian, this analyst will also liberally subscribe to core tenets of Asian thinkers, notably Mahatma Gandhi’s. New Nationalism should as much as possible integrate the Eastern and Western theoretical streams to be able to find meaningful anchorage in the whole of the Asian continent.

 

It is hoped that the article will be of use to various end-users for reflective purposes, particularly to advocacy groups and state agencies that are in the process of rethinking   paradigms & issues revolving around public policy.

 

SCARCITY VERSUS ABUNDANCE: THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE

 

The Continental Divide—between Euro-America (Europe, North America, Latin America) and Asia-Pacific—is no mere geographical cleavage, but more importantly cultural-civilizational. In economic doctrines, the division lies in the core premise that underpins all other economic variables and the social class arrangements that constitute the base for appropriating the values of the totality of efforts of production, distribution, consumption and exchange. While Western thinkers premise economic realities on scarcity, the Eastern thinkers notably sages presuppose the same on abundance.

 

The foundational doctrines of Western political economy—mercantilism and physiocracy—were both premised on scarcity. All other doctrines that emerged thereafter, inclusive of socialism, neo-classicism and marginalism, proceeded from the same premise. The most popular socialist thinker, K. Marx, envisioned a society of abundance, rationalizing such a vision on the presumed reality of scarcity (of resources) and its attendant effect, mitigated by social structures, of pauperization on the proletariat. This ‘scarcity premise’ is indubitably a hallmark of Western discourse.

 

Eastern discourse raises questions about such a premise. Among all Eastern thinkers, it was Gandhi who most succinctly articulated the difference. To the folks of the East, daily living is a reality of abundance, such an abundance abetted by continuous resource materialization and allocation as graces from the transcendent spheres. With the caveat, to note, that people live according to their needs. Accordingly, the planet has more than enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for everyone’s greed. What could be wiser today than the said dictum, so simple in structure yet so profound in substance? (Review also Buddhist economics, Sarkar’s ‘progressive utilization theory’, Sri Aurobindo’s vedic economics, Baha’i economics, Vivekananda’s socialist visions.)

 

I couldn’t but agree more with the Eastern discursive stream than with the Western ones. Why, let us query, do  Filipinos keep on eating the whole day, sliding inputs down their stomachs as much as five (5) times a day? And why don’t the Filipinos save surplus money at all (many folks don’t even maintain back accounts)? That is because deep within their psyche, in the antechambers of their ‘collective unconscious’, resides the presupposition of abundance. Mother earth provides, the country provides, so why save for tomorrow, and why not consume that which is offered unto you when you arrive as a visitor amongst the town & country folks, such offerings being graces from God and His most divine minions?

 

Among ancient islanders, it was a vice to store resources (savings) for oneself, as this is a hoarding practice. Reciprocity then was the economic norm of behavior. When a household cooks nilupak, and a surplus of the delicacy is gathered after the eating, then the virtuous behavior is to share the excess nilupak among neighbors and kins rather than hoard it; and, conversely, it was a vice (read: very bad behavior) to throw away (surplus) that which has been provided for by Bathala and the anitos.

 

Surely, economic theorizing that is so deeply steeped in Western streams will never get to the bottom of the reality of Filipino economic behavior. Flawed premises breed flawed models that consequently produce flawed explanatory constructs and flawed practices on the developmental sphere. To a great extent, the Filipinos continue to retain, rather unconsciously, the reciprocity-based ‘systems’ of antiquity, contributing in no small measure to their bayanihan mode of adaptation. This reciprocity helps them to survive disasters and permits them to adapt quickly to new environments that are strongly cash-based, such as urban centers. It is also the basis for creating Filipino ‘social capital’ (Peter Evans had articulated well on the principle) as human asset accretions arising from networks of volunteer social groups (civil society), the kind of capital that is a catalytic factor in various development endeavors.

 

New Nationalism may have to find an effective bridge between the two. What is sure for now is that the exchange systems of redistribution (feudalism) and markets (capitalism), both  imposed upon the islanders by Western empires, have undermined the Asian or ‘Islander Way’ of reciprocity premised on abundance. During the time of Gat J. Rizal, the islands were able to provide more than enough for everyone else, no matter how harsh the Latin-Hispanic feudal system was to the folks who were subsumed in its enclaves. Today, with over eighty (80) million people populating the archipelago, reality had assumed the scarcity mode, making us believe that scarcity has been the premise since antiquity.

 

The bridge between the East and West will be institutionalized through the popularization of a needs-based philosophy. However, the consumerism that is the hallmark of a revivified market strongly erodes a needs-based discourse. There surely is a dynamic tension between ‘basic needs’ and consumerism, and such a tension will be a chief definer of the premise’s compass in the succeeding decades.

 

LAISSEZ FAIRE VERSUS DIRIGISM: PARADIGMS AND FAIRY TALES

 

Across the continents, where markets have predominance in the economic sphere, there has always been the antipodal tendentialities of laissez faire and dirigisme. The bone of contention has been the state’s role in the economy. These tendentialities have surely represented two (2) hard-line oppositional streams.

 

Mercantilism, the progenitor of dirigism, contended that regulation should govern production, distribution, consumption and exchange. The (interventionist) state should be at the center of regulation, with the central goal of all economic pursuits being the accumulation of the wealth for King. Old Nationalism had held on to this contention, with the revision that wealth should be accumulated for the nation as a whole and no longer merely for the King, wealth that is correspondingly allocated to the folks in the form of wages and welfare (this ‘wealth for nation’ line is admittedly a concession to the Smithian physiocracy, a competitor discourse). Only the state, not the market, can best perform redistributive responsibilities for welfare, jobs and wages. Necessarily, development should be undertaken with strong state regulations in the four intervention areas mentioned. The Keynesian revolution revived the dirigist contention, using a demand-side premise, and held sway across the globe for around half a century since its inception.

 

Laissez faire, whose earliest articulators were the physiocrats, opposed dirigist doctrines with extreme zeal. Accordingly, the state should only intervene in matters of defense, justice and public works, and should keep its hands off the market. Accumulating wealth is a matter of private sector concern (industrialists and landlords), while free trade must be the condition of international exchange and distribution. Even matters of welfare must be left to market mechanisms to provide. Development efforts, i.e. the ones undertaken by ‘3rd world’ economies, must follow the laissez faire path. The logic behind the contention is that the market will produce the entrepreneurs who will be enticed to embark on bold ventures should they be left on their own to take off ‘infantile enterprises’.

 

The problem arises when, due to the predominance of non-market mechanisms, such as clientelist relations and redistribution-based exchange systems (haciendas, latifundia), development could hardly take off at all. In cases where entrepreneurs are of residual numbers, such as the one demonstrated by Philippine experience, laissez faire strategies would prove pathetic in results. This entrepreneurial scarcity had justified the adoption of dirigist policy frameworks, the principle ones being those that guided the ‘import substitution industrialization’ of 1947-1968. Various 3rd world states have sponsored the dirigist path, employing diverse models (socialist, mixed market-socialist), with fairly good results for many of them. The articulators of such states have argued that no country had ever prospered thru the laissez faire route, and that laissez faire can only work out when development had reached a highly mature level when consumerism propels growth, and where economic fundamentals are very strong and stable.

 

Many developing economies actually encountered tremendous snags as their states chiefly sponsored development efforts. Rent-seekers of every kind appeared on the scene, serving as barriers to the effective entry of possible investors from among potential competitors. In the Philippine case, asset reform in the agrarian sector had been a perennial failure, thus further complicating the already complex maize of structural problems. What happened, according to the defenders of laissez faire doctrines, was that dirigisme made the ensconced patrimonial groups become further entrenched, thus leading to a vicious cycle of slow growth, high poverty, high unemployment, and relative stagnation.

 

Such a situation served as the impetus for embracing neo-liberal reforms over the last twenty-five (25) years by the developing economies, the Philippines included. Laissez faire returned with a vengeance, popularizing free trade in the international sphere, and structural adjustments in the domestic sphere and public sector, to note: liberalization, deregulation, privatization, liberalized currency markets/devaluation, down-sizing, minimal/residual fiscal stimulus & budgets for social services, tax reforms and decentralization. Such a policy regime of ‘structural adjustments’ were instrumental in integrating national markets into a globalized one where there is freer flow of tradable goods, investments, information and labor. Not only that, the antipathy of foundational physiocracy towards manufacturing (biased for agriculture) returned, as cheap imports (owing to liberalized trade) destroyed established industries leading to ‘de-industrialization’. 

 

Where are we twenty-five (25) years after instituting market reforms under the aegis of ‘structural adjustments’ (note: we began through the ‘structural adjustment loans’ of the World Bank, c. 1979)? National income continues to grow at dismally low rates, poverty had increased during the latter phase of the reforms (decreased only recently), unemployment remains high amid positive growth, and our developmental stage continues to be stuck up in the ‘growth stage’ (failed to reach ‘maturity’). Globalization, with its attendant ‘structural adjustment’ policies, has weakened nations, even caused fragmentation in others, a fact that had likewise been replicated in the Philippines with its separatist movements. Free trade had destroyed domestic industries (the USA case was hit so hard by this one), as some had to fold up (Marikina shoes exemplifies the Philippine case) and transfer elsewhere (Procter & Gamble-Philippine is an example). With weak or nil ‘safety nets’, chances are that many producers (e.g. fruits, vegetables) will lose against cheaply-priced imports. One thing is clear for the case of many developing economies, including the Philippines: market reforms failed miserably to get them to development maturity, even as it set back the development path of others.

 

So if both dirigisme and laissez faire have been failing in making life better for the nation and the majority of the people, what discourse than can work out to salve the ailments of most developing states? Expectedly, a ‘renaissance of nation-states’ has become the wave of the present, with many of its articulators defending a return to dirigisme in its old form—in its highly protectionist form. I used to be among such articulators, even as I now argue that Old Nationalism can have deleterious results when pushed to the extremes. We can’t wish globalization away, it is here to stay and galvanize some more, even as it challenges us all to path-find the opportunities that it can offer while neutralizing the threats that could result from it. In other words, re-echoing Herr Reich’s and Mdm Arroyo’s elucidations on the subject, I am now wont to advocate for a New Nationalism or neo-nationalism, a discourse that advances beyond the narrow confines of extremist dirigisme and laissez faire.