Annual Law Lecture: How global trading rules are contributing to Africa’s deindustrialization and what we can do about it

By Georgia Marks

On the 21st November 2016, the WCIA, in partnership with Centre for Law and Society/ Law and Global Justice Programme, Cardiff University, held the fifth annual law lecture by Professor James Thuo Gathii at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff. John Harrington, the chairman of the Board of Justice for the WCIA, chaired the event. He introduced the speaker and the discussant, Celine Tan. Overall, the event was insightful and gave the audience a range of solutions to think about in terms of global trade.

Professor Gathii began by defining deindustrialization as the movement of workers from industry and then went on to give a brief context. He stated that Africa’s economy has been growing, but this has brought deindustrialization. In the 1970s, the governments had policies focusing on agriculture, but wanted to be like the West so produced industrialised economies, with structural adjustment programmes set up to reduce the role of the state in the economy. In 1990, the World Bank and the IMF drove for reform which the speaker says had a debilitating effect on industries. For example, in Senegal, the manufacturing and processing of sugar decreased in the past 20 years.

Next, Gathii highlighted the problems behind deindustrialization. He said that bad economic governments contributed. Many governments are corrupt, as well as the fact that the African elite have been able to source products, that can be made in Africa, outside of the continent at the expense of local producers. He then went on to use the supply of palm oil to reinforce his point. He then went on to talk about the phenomenon of consumption cities where workers are moving from manufacturing as there is less work. This is exacerbated by the lack of sustainable effort to create work in industry, and thus the problem grows. This seems to be a valid problem in these countries which in turn create a variety of different problems, particularly to local businesses.

The speaker continued by proposing solutions which he referred to as ‘big ideas.’ Firstly, he suggested making technology transfers a key component of the trade system, for example with Japan and China. Emphasis was placed on Africa’s need to go for innovation seeking investments and utilise other countries’ need for resources. He also gave importance to the fact that the availability of these contracts allows the transfer of knowledge between countries. I think that this is important as it allows for African countries to develop which will hopefully enhance their position within trade. Gathii stated that there is a lot of potential in this idea as exemplified in South Korea doing business with Britain over the manufacturing of rail cars. Countries can gain leverage in order to get what they want instead of just selling off resources. In his belief, African countries have the capacity to do this. This idea is a good one as it encourages African countries to be more assertive in trade which appeared to be one of the main themes in the talk, but it is also interactive for Western countries as they will participate in this trade.

The next proposed solution was improved regional trade among African countries. This is perhaps one of the strongest solutions as it promotes self-sufficiency in Africa. Gathii expressed that there is currently an unequal system in international trade as the ways trading rules are interpreted are consistent with bias because big countries will make sure that their view prevails. This solution is within Africa itself, so does not address part of the talk which askes what we can do about it, but despite this, it is still a strong solution. The speaker gave the shocking statistic that inter-African trade is only 9% of their overall trade, with Africa importing $35 billion worth of food each year. What is worse, according to Gathii, is that it is the sort of food that Africa grows! He went on to say that famines in African countries were because of no trade, not because of lack of food. This stresses the importance of inter-African trade. He stated that commitments to reduce the trade barriers are all there. If there have been things put in place for this solution then there is no reason why it should not be successful. A member of the audience from Cardiff University asked how we could focus on south-south cooperation to reduce dependence on the western world. In response, Gathii expressed that southern countries were doing a bad job of trading with themselves. In order to improve this we could make evident these blind spots as there is a possibility to build a vibrant market in rural Africa with the right policies. How we could make them see the blind spots was not made clear, however the speaker is right in the fact that good policy making will help to boost trade.

Third, Gathii suggests productivity enhancing initiatives, which could be done without the other two proposals. He goes on to recommend basic processing of natural produce and simple but critical farming technology. All of this centres on product development, but also ensures that the changes are realistic and work for regionalists. Whilst this proposal is the simplest of all the solutions, it is a positive that it can work independently of the others given, and may also be the most realistic recommendation.

Overall, the proposals made by Professor Gathii were good as they would be effective if carried out properly. However, the emphasis is not on what the West can do about it. Yet, I do not think that is a bad thing, as a lot of discussions have the tendency to be too focussed on the West, which can sometimes mean that the issue at hand can get forgotten. So I think the fact that the main subjects are the African countries strengthens the proposals given by the speaker, but also gives a more innovative perspective to these solutions.

The discussant, Celine Tan, then analysed the proposals made by Professor Gathii, stating that they were excellent. This I totally agree with. She took on an Asian perspective as a child of Malaysian industrialisation. She spoke of the lack of regulation which made industrialisation problematic in Malaysia, however despite this it is undeniable that industrialisation was the driver in the country’s economic growth. The discussant claimed that in Africa, external factors are constraining the continent’s industrial development, and expressed that Gathii was too generous to the external sources. The main question surrounding Tan’s talk was how much of Gathii’s proposals does he think is achievable? Particularly in terms of current constraints. She went on to say that external factors were not barriers to other countries such as Malaysia, particularly that they did not have pressures from external places to get funds. Malaysia’s transition from agriculture to industry was gradual because they had the policy space to do so. However, according to Tan, African countries have lost their autonomy of the constraints, whereas Malaysia maintains their scope for determining what to do with their economy. I think this highlights one of the key constraints on Africa which is unique to them, and emphasizes that as a continent they need to try and address these limits. Also, bringing in a different perspective on industrialisation made for a really effective comparison, so that the audience could see the realistic limits on African countries.

Tan highlights three key issues that Gathii’s proposals may encounter. Firstly, there is the issue of Africa’s dependence on external finance, as some of the speakers’ proposals were predicated on public finance. But where is this finance going to come from? I think that this is a really crucial question to ask, as how can we see any of these solutions put into place if there is nothing to fund them. Secondly, there is a question of international regulation as it hinders the finance available. She stated that multi-national firms threaten countries’ revenue. This is the downside to processes with foreign investors as how can we ensure that African countries keep onto the revenue. Again, I think that this is a point worth addressing as there is a risk of exploitation here. In the Q&A session after the talks, a representative from Fair Trade Wales asked what the solutions can be provided to support farmers and ensure that they have a choice a choice on a global scale. Gathii responded by saying that we shouldn’t leave things the way they are if they are corrupt. Investment programmes are the solution. The speaker acknowledged the limits as inevitable, but everyone says that this is the right thing to do. On basic necessities trade could be improved, but the time scales need to be more visible. There are interesting policies already existing. He went on to express that if trade does not benefit the people then there is no point. Western ideas do not truly know about African issues, so aid is not going to help as much as trade. I think this makes a good point in that instead of the West attempting to help, we should be taking a step back and let Africa retain control of their own policies so that they have more influence in trade as Africa knows what will benefit them the most.

Lastly, Tan emphasised the constraints of investment rules in global trade. These trade rules mean that countries like the UK generate value from raw materials. Additionally, the discussant also highlighted the constraints that treaties bring to African countries, such limits are not faced by countries in south-east Asia. She continued by saying that the rules are so stacked against African countries, it is doubtful as to whether the proposals given by Gathii will work. This is point is very valid as it shows the problems as exclusive to African countries, which only emphasizes the problems of trade in these countries. It is also an important aspect to consider when asking whether the proposals would realistically work.

Ms Tan concluded by saying that a more holistic outlook was needed. Overall, her rebuttals to Professor Gathii’s proposals were all persuasive and acted for a good academic discussion. These proposals appear to be an ideal, but more thought needs to go into how these could be developed in practice, linking to the context of the current situation in African countries.

Gathii then summarised his stance, addressing the points made by Tan. In terms of the last point, he stated that the discussant was right in that there were huge barriers imposed by the West that prevent many of his proposals. He claimed that this problem was escalated by the fact that African countries fail to negotiate and end up settling with deals that do not benefit them. This is reinforced by the point that the Southern African Customs Union is the only region to reject a template for trade. He continued by stating that the systems often favour developed countries and that he wishes that African leaders were more proactive in deciding not to participate in trade with challenging affluent countries. In the Q&A session, a practicing lawyer in the audience questioned the retaliation system in terms of compensation. Gathii responded with the statement that the treaties are a reflection of interests of the people who wrote them which is unfair as it is favour of developed countries. Developing countries as a collective have the opportunity to take trade into a different direction. This, again focuses on what Africa can do rather than how the West can contribute. Yet the point made that African countries should take power into their own hands is still a strong one and promotes self-sufficiency.

John Harrington concluded with the idea of ‘aid vs trade.’ The current Secretary of State suggested that we should increase aid to promote trade, but this is only to improve British trade. From a Welsh context, Wales is to act in a globally responsible manner. This is a strong conclusion as to be responsible and aware of how are actions affect other countries in terms of global trade is significant in order to ensure that we do not hinder Africa’s development by rigid rules and bias policies. So, a sense of being conscious about the problems of non-western countries is one of the most important things that we can do in order to improve industry in Africa.

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Aid is a moral obligation

By David Hooson 

With globalism and the UK’s place in the world having become extremely hot topics in the wake of the EU referendum, it is of little surprise that debate and media coverage of international development and foreign aid have skyrocketed. The new Prime Minister’s decision to install a leading Brexiteer, Priti Patel, as International Development Secretary, has only served to push the issue up the agenda and fan the flames of controversy.

Ms. Patel has a track record of being outspoken on the area of government policy she now leads, at one point having called for the Department for International Development to be abolished and its work integrated into the Department for Trade and Industry. That theme continued with her recent comments about ‘wasteful’ and ‘superficial’ aid projects, as well as suggesting foreign aid could be used to help negotiate future international trade deals when the UK leaves the EU.

The use of the UK’s aid budget should be based on nothing more than our moral obligation to help those in need around the world. To attach political strings to aid money or to use it as an economic bargaining tool contravenes the point of its existence.

RAF C17 Lands in Nepal with Vital UK Aid

Picture: Sgt Neil Bryden/ RAF

The UN goal of dedicating 0.7% of gross national income to foreign aid was first suggested in 1969, and a succession of British politicians have pledged their commitment to meeting that target, with Ms. Patel the latest to do so. The principle of this goal is for developed countries to work together to tackle poverty around the world and to respond adequately to humanitarian crises – not to further their own economic objectives. The 0.7% pledge is a rare opportunity for a government to be selflessly outward-looking, and it should be relished as such.

Furthermore, the fate of those bearing the brunt of social or economic injustice should not be determined by the ability or whims of politicians and businesspeople, whose actions they have little or no influence upon. Indeed, it may be the failings of those politicians and businesspeople that have led to such injustice. The availability of aid should always be determined by need, not by backroom deals and political expediency.

The direction Ms. Patel proposes for international development policy is part of a worrying wider trend that could see the UK turn its back on our global moral obligations. We in Wales should be pushing against this trend by remaining inclusive and outward-looking, as well as campaigning and raising awareness on global issues like international development.

The future of international development?

By Rosa Brown

The International Development Secretary Priti Patel is not one to shy away from controversy. However, last month Patel appears to have outdone herself as she revealed her desire to use the UK’s aid budget for post-Brexit trade deals. In an interview with the BBC, Patel asserted that “We have to make sure that our aid works in our national interest and also that it works for our taxpayers – much more openness, much more transparency and much more accountability.” priti_patel_20161

Patel’s vision for the Department for International Development (DfID) would be concerning had it belonged to any public official. But coming from the current International Development Secretary, it sounds ill-conceived at best. To insert the taxpayer at the heart of DfID’s objectives completely neglects the countries, communities and individuals reliant on UK funding. These are the people Patel should be talking about, many of whom have been empowered by the inter-governmental organisations supported by the aid budget.

The UK’s position on the world’s stage is recognised by Patel but used to justify her take on aid, “we have a strong footprint overseas and it is right that we use that footprint in the national interest”.

Whether the UK will have such a ‘strong footprint overseas’ if Patel gets her way is questionable to say the least. Patel’s crackdown on inefficient use of public money has also inspired the MP to claim that her department should no longer support the UN’s cultural body, UNESCO. This recent move earnt the MP a ‘major rap on the knuckles’ from No 10, according to a senior government official who spoke to The Sun newspaper last week.

Whilst some have wondered whether Patel’s sole objective is to make the UK appear greedy and cruel, I think she is genuinely convinced that free trade agreements are the answer to economic prosperity for the UK. But for poor countries, free trade agreements have been found to drive economies into deeper poverty. It has been over twenty years since the Northern American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Since the agreement, Mexico’s annual per capital growth flat-lined to an average of 1.2 percent, which happens to be one of the lowest rates in the hemisphere. Twenty million Mexicans currently live in ‘food poverty’, with twenty five percent of the population unable to access basic food. This increase in poverty in the country has helped nurture organised crime recruitment and the breakdown of local communities.

Not all of Mexico’s problems can be blamed on NAFTA. But it is possible to trace a direct link between the agreement and the country’s declining economy; as NAFTA was responsible for closing alternative development paths for the economy in its prohibition of protective tariffs. The impact of NAFTA upon Mexico’s economy indicates the dangers caused by the removal of such tariffs, along with the fact that these agreements are rarely ever ‘free’.6624096043_60551c99cb_o

The implications of Patel’s comments on the international aid budget cannot be detached from its post-Brexit context. These comments have come at a time when many political agreements relating to the EU are riddled with uncertainty. Now Patel has used the topic of Brexit trade agreements as a topical soundbite to deliver her stress on ‘value for money’ for the ‘good, hardworking, British taxpayer’. But this is a time when it is more important than ever to look outward rather than in, to work with others, to help others, rather than simply act upon British vested interests.

International development is not currently devolved in Wales. However the National Assembly has asserted its desire to engage in international issues, one shining example of which is the Wales for Africa Programme, launched to work in line with the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. Now on the tenth anniversary of the programme, is an opportunity for the nation to celebrate Wales for Africa’s successes, but also look to the future to the work that can be done.

On the subject of the Wales for African Programme, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that the “people in Wales have big hearts. They belong in a small country but, oh man, they really have the kick of a mule!”. Now is the time to nurture our country’s commitment to international development and continue to empower those in poverty. Not for the sake of ‘strong footprints overseas’ but because it is simply the right thing to do.

A Personal Reflection on Loss and Connection post-Brexit

Wendy Tapper, Bridgend

It seems deeply ironic and, to many of us, achingly sad that we are willing to turn away from our European neighbours just as we commemorate the centenary of the battles of the Somme, Mametz Wood, and all our shared experience of the horrors of war. At such times I remember being told stories about my great uncle – the baby of his family, the only boy in a houseful of big sisters – who was interned in a German prisoner-of-war camp in northern France towards the end of the Great War. After the Armistice of 1918, his family waited in vain for his return and neither the British military authorities nor his old comrades could account for his disappearance. At length they, a south Wales miner’s family, wrote to the German authorities for help and got a courteous and kind response. Their boy had been one of thousands of victims of the influenza epidemic that rolled across the devastated continent and he had died in the camp.

Our great uncle remained vivid in our family memory; we have picture postcards he sent home from France and my mother, who died just a few years ago, would recall her childhood adoration of a lively and indulgent young uncle. Decades later a relative traced his grave – not in one of the great memorial sites but in the communal cemetery of a small French town. There, records show that allied soldiers of several nationalities were buried alongside German soldiers, Chinese labourers, and a solitary Russian. They had all suffered and died far from home and the people who loved them.

Now, a century after the carnage of the Somme, my family – like so many others – reflects a more peaceful Europe, a more inter-connected world. We have spun outwards from that Welsh mining village. I have French and German grandchildren and through their heritage I connect with families whose memories are of living under tyranny and foreign occupation. The stories of my new, wider family include: migration to escape poverty and discrimination; the experience of living in caves and foraging for food in Italy as one of the most terrible battles of World War II raged overhead; flight across Germany in 1945 ahead of the advancing Soviet army; and the desperate journey of ‘boat people’ from communist China. They are all our family, our people; their histories have melded with ours to become our common story.

The EU Referendum – A Welsh Debate

Georgia Marks

The rapidly approaching  EU Referendum is a highly discussed topic in the UK, currently dividing our public. On 8th June the WCIA held an event in the old library to aid the understanding of what it would mean for Britain both if we choose to leave or remain in the European Union. The insightful event featured three panels which consisted of three speakers. Although I came to the event with the view that we should remain in the EU, it was overall, a well-informed debate that will prove helpful for those whose minds are still undecided.

The first panel of the evening discussed society and law. Dr Jo Hunt established the framework for EU laws, expressing that they could be seen as both a straitjacket in terms of the restrictions put in place, but also that there is value in these laws such as the communication that we have with other countries. She then established that EU law is made by EU treaties which set out the scope for those institutions that have been given competence to act. The member states work together to make the legislation. In my opinion, surely this legislation is fair to the EU member states if they all participate in the creation of these laws. The European Commission proposes the legislation and it must gain approval from elected members of European Parliament. There is also increased involvement of our national parliament which has been strengthened slightly by February agreements. In terms of how this affects Wales, Dr Hunt stated that the Welsh Assembly have some say in relation to these laws and can be involved in the enactment of indirect legislation if it is relevant to the devolved nation. EU law is supreme, so national laws must not run contrary to EU law. For Wales, Hunt expressed that EU law could be seen as holding restrictions, however the framework provides for expansion.

Dr Hywel Ceri Jones put forward the case to remain in the European Union. He stated that the UK is safer and more through membership, particularly with the threats of terrorism currently plaguing society. He highlighted the importance of standing together to increase peace and reconciliation. Although our membership in the EU means that our sovereignty is to be sacrificed, Jones emphasised that this sacrifice was for the greater good. Those, like Jones, who want to remain in the EU, have an interest in being a full and active member in a strategic security membership. This a sound view, to be part of a group greater than just the United Kingdom will ensure higher levels of security, as we are part of a collective that are able to fight threats to our safety together by sharing strategy. Jones also discussed the unprecedented challenges to security, stating that the EU is a huge institution and it would be foolish to throw our membership away as we are not strong enough without it; British power has an added weight because of our membership in the EU. I completely agree with the statements made, as although the UK wields a lot of power, to stand alone would be detrimental, when we do not have enough influence to stand alone. Jones emphasised the point above by providing examples of how the EU affects Wales. Firstly, in terms of climate change, the global agreement last year was strongly led by the European Union and we need to be in the EU to implement these policies. This is a very strong example due to the increase in concern we have collectively as a society to the horror of climate change. Secondly, the EU provides protection for people of disabilities. To leave the EU, as Jones highlighted, will lead to higher debts and higher cuts in public spending. The leave vision was expressed as a “go it alone” vision, which may potentially ‘do away’ with the European Convention on Human Rights. This may create a Britain that would regard issues and rights for disabled people as unimportant. For example, the 2000 EU directive provides protection for disabled people in terms of employment. Jones concluded by stating that we are safer and more secure in the European Union, as we have a stronger voice and are better equipped to tackle global problems. In my opinion this is one of the most important reasons why we should stay in the EU.

David Rowlands for the leave campaign established that we have had basic rights and freedoms before our membership in the EU, most notably because of the frameworks laid by the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. In terms of our justice system, Rowlands stated that in the past thirty years there have been far-reaching changes. The Supreme Court is not its namesake at all, also European arrest warrants are not observed in all EU countries. Jones also emphasised that EU law sacrifices the supremacy of UK law, further reducing British sovereignty. As the EU is a higher power, surely this is an appropriate measure as it seeks to bring all member states in line with one another. Rowlands went on to express that Britain protects human rights and not the EU, so if we were to leave, there would be no question as to the preservation of our human rights. Rowlands concluded by stating that if our presence in the European Union means that we are losing sovereignty, to swap national law for EU law, simply put, would be foolish.

Within the Q&A session, Dr Jones questioned Rowlands regarding his stance on the Paris climate change deal. Rowlands responded by stating that he thought that climate change is cyclical and that the world was not warming. This of course shocked the audience and also the other leave campaigners on the other two panels as climate change ought not to be lightly dismissed.

The next panel looked at internal and international relationships. Dr Rachel Minto put forward the neutral argument in terms of the referendum. Firstly, she established that there are many different internal relationships that will be affected by the referendum. Additionally, she expressed that it may have an effect on the internal dynamics of the UK. Northern Ireland and Scotland are pro EU whereas Wales is split, so the nations may not vote in the same way, offering an uncertain narrative to the future of the UK.  Minto elaborated on this uncertain narrative, stating that if Scotland is pulled out of the EU against their will then this could constitute a second independence referendum. This could lead to Wales becoming the junior partner in the UK. Secondly, Dr Minto established that internationally there is both public and political discussion surrounding security and global issues in which Wales is under the “UK umbrella.” She concluded by saying that the referendum brings two big constitutional debates in which the EU and devolution are intertwined.

Baroness Julie Smith introduced her remain argument by stating that those who want to leave are under the illusion that the EU is undemocratic and that Westminster is the model we should look too. Understandably if we are to stay in the EU then there is room for improvement, it would be wrong to see Westminster as the ideal. Smith continued. saying that internal relations would be affected in the medium to long-term and that we should not exaggerate an immediate Scottish referendum. However, an immediate effect of Brexit would be a hard EU border for Northern Ireland, so free movement across the UK would likely end. Smith also highlighted that the potential for a second Scottish referendum could result in Wales also initiating an independence referendum. Although this is not guaranteed, I agree that it ought not to be lightly dismissed as it could drastically alter the continuation of the UK as we now know it. Baroness Smith expressed that it is better to be a part of the UK with the European Union. Internationally, Smith emphasised that the EU give the UK major influence, with issues concerning our importance if we are to leave. Smith noted Obama and Clinton have claimed that British influence in the world will diminish if we are to leave the EU and that we would have to re-establish relations for trading and for our place in the world. This is a very important reason as to why we should stay in the EU as losing our international influence will result in spending a lot of time and resources in order to regain our power in which we already have as a member of the EU. Could such time and resources not be better spent in initiating further reform within the EU itself?

Alex Moscovici provided the audience with what he described as a “less conventional” leave argument; the EU pushes an austerity agenda. Although he believes that there are some benefits to stay in the EU, he feels that the benefits of leaving are greater. One of his main points was about accountability; if we leave the EU, we will be able to hold our politicians to account without them trying to blame the EU. In terms of the continuation of the UK, Moscovici expressed that the UK will never survive out of fear of what the Scottish believe, yet the SNP are losing influence so could this help the UK to thrive. In terms of the UK and Ireland, he thinks that we do not need the EU to stop the violence, but we may need them for the borders. In my opinion this a fair point of view as we do not need a great institution to stop violence if we are a collective within UK, but the issues of borders will increase if we leave. He concluded by stating that the EU should be about making our own laws while still being amicable with our neighbours and that to say that either result is perfect would be silly. Moscovi’s argument is the most convincing of the leave arguments, perhaps because it is not one that is regularly put forward, so is more insightful.

In the Q&A session, a member of the audience asked whether the result of the referendum will be damaging to relations between the UK and other countries. Dr Minto stated that the G7 summit established that relations will be something that Britain will need to look into. Moscovici expressed the view that relations have already been damaged due to dishonest information, also in terms of the comments of the USA. Smith appeared to be in agreement by highlighting that the referendum has been unenlightening in that there is insufficient trust and respect. She also expressed that if we are to remain then we need to work on these relations. I agree with the statement that the referendum has been damaging on an international scale, but I also think on an internal scale in terms of the public and politicians due to dishonest information being published. How is the public expected to be properly educated on the referendum if we do not have enough information to guide us?

The final panel reviewed the effect on jobs and the economy. Ed Poole provided the audience with a neutral context, stating that the 2014-2020 EU budget saw a reduction for the first time in its history. The UK have always contributed to the EU, with our contribution being the second largest, yet our share is one of the smallest, with the UK making £9.8 billion in 2014 in the EU. Poole stated that the position of Wales is divergent. Wales receives a net beneficiary of £245 million per year, but Brexit will have a significant impact on Welsh policy.

Lord Dafydd Wigley started off his remain argument by stating that if we pull down the building blocks of the EU then it will be detrimental. He supported his statement with the example that companies from the USA and Japan are in the UK to export to the EU and the benefits of this type of business would decrease if we leave. In terms of agriculture, 90% of our exports will go to the EU and if we leave the EU we would face a tariff barrier between 40% and 70%. According to Brexit, European funding will be made up by Westminster, but Wigley was told that was going to keep the money instead, so we cannot trust Westminster with these funds. Economically, some things have to be done on a European level, in which we should play a positive part according to Lord Wigley. Lord Wigley provides a sound and well-informed argument, particularly looking at how leaving will affect Wales. So I think to remain, will be healthier for our economy, particularly in terms of trade.

Berwyn Davies provided us with the leave argument. He started off by stating that there is no such thing as European money and that it is simply the taxpayer’s money. This is a fair statement to make, but we have to make some sort of contribution to be a part of such a large institution; however, that should mean that we get more back from the EU if we contribute so much. He went on to say that the EU takes a large proportion of our exports and that this trade will not go away if we leave as we will go via the world trade rules where there is no critical difference in rate. Davies highlighted a key issue that the EU and UK do not want the same things. Personally I find this hard to swallow as if we did not share common goals then why would we have joined the EU? Davies continued by stating that the UK has created more jobs than the rest of the EU combined over the years of its membership. This is a fair point however, as we could use this to help other countries as we provide an example of a prosperous European country, and if we help other countries to improve then this will no longer be an issue. Davies concluded that it is better to take control of ourselves.

Within the Q&A session, a member of the audience questioned the uncertainty that either result will bring. Davies expressed the view that there will be a risk of increasing strangulation of the economy and that if we want a free trade agreement then we should not be under the weight of European regulations. However, Lord Wigley rebutted these points by stating that the term ‘strangulation of regulations’ is false as some regulations ensure that unscrupulous employers do not undercut employees and that these regulations are creating the emergence of a social Europe. These regulations are improving other countries more than the UK in some cases, but we should not be so quick to criticise the fact that we live in a society with fair employment law. Another member of the audience questioned how remaining will benefit entrepreneurs. Lord Wigley stated that entrepreneurs already have the opportunity to export to other countries and that the frustration due to the regulations is understandable. He stated that he is aware of the challenges but it is better to trade in a level playing field provided by the EU. Poole shared agreement with Wigley and stated that there is a reason for a level playing field so that trading can compete, but also expressed that it is burdensome.  Davies stated that he thought that leaving the EU will provide entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pay the living wage as well as being able to trade freely.

The debates were, overall well-informed throughout the event, however, it is the belief of the author that we should remain in the EU for safety within society and in order to uphold our international influence. Although the EU is not all rainbows and sunshine, the referendum should push the UK into becoming an active player in its reform. To leave the EU would be foolish when it provides us with a level playing field in terms of trade. Regardless of my opinion, I urge you to vote. The referendum on Brexit is likely to be a once in a generation opportunity. Take control. Let your voice be heard. On Thursday June 23rd, vote.

ISIL, Syria and the Middle East: The US Perspective

By Georgia Marks

Written after Georgia attended the WCIA event ‘ISIL, Syria and the Middle East, The US Perspective’ with a talk from Thomas Williams from the US Embassy in London. 

The Middle East is one of the most controversial topics talked about today. December 2010 saw peaceful Arab Spring protests about socio-economic issues and against Arab dictatorships. In March 2011, the Syrian government used violence in retaliation against the demonstrators. Once a minority of these protesters fought back, along with some of Syria’s troops, a civil war began in Syria, which rippled across the Middle East. It led to international intervention, including by the USA.

Thomas Williams from the US Embassy talks at the Temple of Peace about ISIL, Syria and the Middle East

Thomas Williams from the US Embassy talks at the Temple of Peace about ISIL, Syria and the Middle East

On 28 April 2016, Tom Williams from the US Embassy in London spoke in Cardiff at the WCIA about the US perspective on issues in the Middle East. He stated that the US strategy in regards to the Middle East is straightforward: the achievement of real stability links to a “consistent international rule of law.” There is a right to act unilaterally, but the US do not perceive this as a sufficient method of intervention compared to diplomacy. Williams stressed the importance of historical relationships, e.g. with the UK, but also with new allies.

In my opinion, this is a sound plan, but also an inconsistent one, as Obama originally wanted to take military action and then changed his mind. This may give people in the Middle East a false hope that at some point the US may intervene militarily, which I think will only drag out the war in Syria.

Williams described the Middle East as a “region of regimes” which were disrupted by the Arab springs; they are still dealing with the consequences of political transition as a result of the protests. There are many issues facing this part of the world. Demographically there is a youth bulge and a surge of underemployment in some areas. The antiquated schooling systems result in high levels of illiteracy which increases the unemployment rates. The rule of law is particularly sketchy, with the demonstrations in 2010 and 2011 fuelled by the resentment of corruption. Additionally, political instability is one of the main issues of the Middle East, with the crisis from the civil war in Syria flowing to the surrounding countries, leading to a surge of refugees which has broad international impacts.

Williams said the top priority of the US foreign is Syria, with the crisis continuing into its 6th year, 5 million refugees are currently registered. Some are staying in camps but a large number are currently in host communities which is demanding not only on the governments of these countries, but also on the general population due to competition for housing and labour. The biggest strain is on Jordan, Turkey and the Lebanon. But all of this was inevitable- with any major political transition comes upheaval of society. So in my view the US should have anticipated and planned for before they intervened. Williams said that the strategy undertaken by the US is threefold.

  • To mobilise the partners for the campaign to fight ISIL.
  • Diplomacy to end the civil war in Syria. Talks are vital, with Williams describing current talks as the most promising initiative in years. There are sharp divisions, but there is unity to have political transition.
  • A humanitarian approach which aims to ensure that the instability does not spread beyond the borders of Syria. In particular this looks at hosting refugees.

In my opinion the first strategy creates more work for the third strategy. Fighting against ISIL will increase the need for humanitarian aid. The safety of the people in Syria is more likely to be jeopardised if there is more conflict. Therefore putting more US effort into diplomacy will be more effective; if the country is more stable because of peace negotiations then the need for humanitarian aid will decrease.

A member of the audience questioned the changing stance of the USA. At the beginning of the civil war the US, UK and others made it clear that Assad must go. However, after the emergence of large terrorist organisations such as ISIL, the attitude towards Assad became much more positive. Is it not defeating the point of original intervention if the Assad regime stays? The evolution of views, Williams said, reflects the change in circumstances. He explained that after the protests in Syria, Assad lost legitimacy; ultimately the situation with Assad will have to be negotiated with the Syrian government because America’s underpinning policy is unchanged.

The US have also been focusing on political and economic issues, with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank working together to build the economy. A member of the audience questioned how helpful economic institutions like the IMF really are in this region.

The speaker answered arguing that humanitarian efforts are not always effective in particularly violent areas. Experience in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted the difficulties in humanitarian progress as it is hard to give evidence that the US has actually helped. So a potentially more effective alternative is stabilisation of the economy. I think this point is well thought out as the stabilisation of the economy will in turn aid society if there is something to support the people. But a reliance on westernised systems may cause the Middle East to become too dependent on the west. The US should help to stabilise the economy, but without constant economic support so that these countries can survive by themselves economically.

Williams expressed that the main goal within the surrounding countries of the region is to secure political stability. The USA are supporting a Tunisian democratic transition through a mutually agreed agenda, working with Tunisia to fight corruption. He argues that US intervention has helped a stronger, improved government through decentralisation, with Obama describing the country as a potential counter terrorism partner.

The USA have also been working in Libya to assist public institutions to become political institutions; the government of national court has made progress, but has yet to establish legitimacy. There has also been growing terrorist presence in Libya, which could threaten these improvements.

Additionally, the USA have looked at negotiating with Israel and Palestine where there is currently little political motivation. Williams stressed that they must stay committed to these countries. He emphasised diplomacy, using the example of its success in Iran. He suggests Iran could have chosen to create nuclear weapons but made the choice to refrain from gaining such resources because of negotiations with the US. Although the speaker still described Iran as a concern, it does go to show that patient collaboration works.

A member of the audience asked if ISIS was dealt with tomorrow, did Williams not think that the US had established alliances for the sake of it. However, the speaker highlighted that some of their allies, such as the Kurdish forces, are highly problematic in the region, but they focus on working with effective forces to fight terrorism; the regions themselves are to deal with the aftermath. They fight the shortest term challenge and then deal with other issues as they emerge.

A survey by ORB international found that 22 per cent of Syrians believe that ISIS has had a positive influence on their country.[1] In my opinion, this weakens US intervention, and suggests that there is a decreased confidence in America’s aid. All this lengthens the time it will take to progress towards political stability.

Williams concluded that military intervention is not always the best option. Real diplomacy, although hard and sometimes unsatisfactory, is fundamental. The USA needs the world in order to succeed in international intervention, but the USA is also central to the world for diplomatic intervention. International community is important.

A diplomatic approach to the Middle East, rather than military intervention is a long process, but I think the most successful option likely to achieve political stability and peace over military intervention. Due to the threat that ISIL pose on the world, military action can make the situation worse. To establish peace negotiations by Middle Eastern countries would lead to future conflicts being resolved within these regions without the need for external intervention.

The USA could have handled the beginning of their intervention more successfully, with a consistent idea of how they would intervene in the Middle East. There is a history of military intervention in this region, for example in Afghanistan. So when the USA originally decided to intervene militarily but then changed their position to an emphasis on diplomacy, it gives the people false hope that eventually the USA will use military action to fight terrorist groups. Additionally, negotiations with Assad reinforces the idea of inconsistent policies of the US. This makes it hard for the Middle East to treat US intervention as legitimate if there is never a clear stance. So if the idea of diplomacy and humanitarianism is showcased consistently, it has the potential to prevent the elongation of the civil war in Syria.

 

[1] ORB International. ‘ORB/IIACSS poll in Iraq and Syria gives rare insight into public opinion.’ http://www.opinion.co.uk/article.php?s=orbiiacss-poll-in-iraq-and-syria-gives-rare-insight-into-public-opinion

Welsh party leaders answer WCIA questions on global issues: Q6 of 6 / Arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru yn ateb cwestiynau WCIA ar faterion byd-eang: C6 o 6

Cymraeg

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UKIP were invited to participate but did not submit responses to the questions by the deadline.


Plaid Cymru

Trade relationships, the peace dividend since World War II, the financial support we qualify for because of our forced poverty which the UK Government would be unlikely to provide were we outside the EU. EU social policies protect key rights such as equality of opportunity, better protection for workers and for parents, children and young people. We are opposed to the proposed TTIP free trade agreement between the EU and the USA, as it too threatens to take away those rights. Leaving the EU would not protect us from TTIP, seeing as the UK Government is the driving force of deregulation in Europe. Therefore the only way to ensure a better European Union is to work collaboratively with social and progressive movements across Europe to push for a more democratic and socially just Union.

Wales Green Party

There are many issues – water pollution, air pollution, climate change, overfishing – for example, that do not respect borders. We need a body that works cross-nationally to deal with these issues. Similarly, we need a co-ordinated approach to home refugees, and are stronger if we work together to challenge powerful global corporations and tax evasion.
We do, however, need a reformed EU that is more transparent, accountable and democratic.

Welsh Conservatives

In June voters will have a say on Britain’s future in the European Union, for the first time in more than a generation. Thanks to the Conservatives, the future of our relationship with Europe will then be placed in the hands of the people – not politicians.
I want people to bear in mind the sheer importance of their decision at the ballot box. The impact that this will have on Wales’ economy, our public services and our national unity and security.

I have made my own position clear. I believe Wales future will be best served as part of a looser, economic relationship with the European Union. However, until the 5th of May has passed I will not be distracted from articulating our positive vision of real change for our NHS, education and economy in Wales – and neither should Welsh voters.

Welsh Liberal Democrats

The European referendum will be one of the defining votes of this generation. With the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union fast approaching, Welsh Liberal Democrats are proud to be united for IN. We believe that Britain must look to lead, not leave, the EU. We hope that Wales will recognise the many benefits to Wales of EU membership, such as access to the world’s largest single market, that the EU has brought half a century of peace to the continent, and the importance of the EU to international efforts to combat climate change.

Welsh Labour

People should give highest priority to their economic, social and environmental security – which is enhanced by our membership of the EU.
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Arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru

Rhoddwyd gwahoddiad i UKIP gymryd rhan ond ni dderbyniwyd ymatebion i’r cwestiynau erbyn y dyddiad cau.


C6. Pa faterion ydych chi am i bleidleiswyr gael ar flaen eu meddyliad wrth i ni agosáu at refferendwm yr UE?

Plaid Cymru

Perthnasau masnach, y difidend heddwch ers yr Ail Ryfel Byd, y gefnogaeth ariannol yr ydym yn gymwys amdano oherwydd ein tlodi gorfodedig – byddai’n annhebygol y byddai Llywodraeth y DU yn eu darparu pe byddem y tu allan i’r UE. Mae polisïau cymdeithasol yr UE yn amddiffyn hawliau allweddol fel cydraddoldeb cyfleoedd, gwell gwarchodaeth i weithwyr a rhieni, plant a phobl ifanc. Rydym yn erbyn y cytundeb masnach TTIP sydd wedi’i gynnig rhwng yr UE ac UDA, gan ei fod yn bygwth cymryd yr hawliau hynny. Ni fyddai gadael yr UE yn ein hamddiffyn rhag TTIP, gan mai Llywodraeth y DU yw gyrrwr dadreoleiddio yn Ewrop.

Felly, yr unig ffordd o sicrhau Undeb Ewropeaidd well yw gweithio’n gydweithredol gyda mudiadau blaengar a chymdeithasol ledled Ewrop i roi pwysau am Undeb cymdeithasol a democrataidd mwy cyfiawn.

Plaid Werdd Cymru

Mae nifer o faterion – llygredd dŵr, llygredd aer, gor-bysgota – er enghraifft, nad ydynt yn parchu ffiniau. Rydym angen corff sydd yn gweithio’n draws-genedlaethol i ddelio gyda’r materion hyn. Yn yr un modd, rydym angen ymagwedd gydweithredol tuag at roi cartrefi i ffoaduriaid, ac rydym yn gryfach os ydym yn gweithio gyda’n gilydd i herio corfforaethau byd-eang pwerus ac osgoi treth. Fodd bynnag, rydym angen UE mwy diwygiedig sydd yn fwy tryloyw, atebol a democrataidd.

Ceidwadwyr Cymreig

Ym mis Mehefin bydd pleidleiswyr yn cael dweud eu dweud ar ddyfodol Prydain yn yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, am y tro cyntaf mewn mwy na chenhedlaeth. Diolch i’r Ceidwadwyr, bydd dyfodol ein perthynas gydag Ewrop yn cael ei roi yn nwylo’r bobl – nid y gwleidyddion. Rwyf am i bobl gofio gwir bwysigrwydd eu penderfyniad yn y blwch pleidleisio. Yr effaith fydd hyn yn ei gael ar economi Cymru, ein gwasanaethau cyhoeddus a’n undod a’n diogelwch cenedlaethol.

Rwyf wedi nodi fy safle fy hun yn glir. Credaf y bydd dyfodol Cymru yn well fel rhan o berthynas economaidd fwy llac gyda’r Undeb Ewropeaidd. Fodd bynnag, nes bod 5 Mai wedi pasio ni fydd fy sylw’n cael ei dynnu o fynegi ein gweledigaeth gadarnhaol o newid gwirioneddol ar gyfer ein GIG, addysg ac economi yng Nghymru – ac ni ddylai pleidleisiwyr Cymru chwaith.

Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru

Bydd y refferendwm Ewropeaidd yn un o bleidleisiau diffiniol y genhedlaeth hon. Gyda’r refferendwm ar aelodaeth Prydain yn yr Undeb Ewropeaidd yn agosau, mae Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru yn falch o fod yn unedig i aros MEWN. Credwn fod rhaid i Brydain edrych ar arwain, nid gadael, yr UE. Gobeithiwn y bydd Cymru yn cydnabod y nifer o fanteision dros Gymru’n aros yn yr UE, fel mynediad at farchnad sengl fwy, fod yr UE wedi dod â dros hanner canrif o heddwch i’r cyfandir, a phwysigrwydd yr UE o ran ymdrechion rhyngwladol i frwydro yn erbyn newid hinsawdd.

Llafur Cymru

Dylai pobl roi’r flaenoriaeth uchaf i’w diogelwch economaidd, cymdeithasol ac amgylcheddol – sydd yn cael ei wella o fod yn aelod o’r UE.
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