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What if you threw a rules-based party and nobody came?
It seems that even the U.S. allies HATE the rules-based global order
As international law became too constricting, western ruling establishments began to worship at the altar of rules, professing their commitment to the "rules-based global order." We're civilized people and we ought to play by the rules: if you pronounce this with a British accent, you’ll be able to convince yourself that it is so. So far, so good, but they never bothered to explain to us what these rules are or who writes them.
In a rather astonishing interview published on Saturday, former French Minister of the Economy Arnaud Montebourg explained how the rules based system actually works: "They use military tools. First of all, they use all the listening and intelligence systems that they built after 9/11.
They don't listen to terrorists... well they certainly do and that's very good... but they listen to foreign companies that compete with theirs. So it's very simple: it became clear in 2014 when Snowden revealed that there were 75 million conversations and emails that had been exploited by the NSA on France, on French companies."
Montebourg spoke about the affair involving French industrial behemoth Alstom when the company's Vice President of Global Sales, Frederic Pierucci was detained in the US and charged with corruption. In fact it was a blunt intervention to suppress competition and manipulate markets, better explained by Mr. Pierucci after his release from prison in this 2-hour interview (unfortunately only in French). Monetbourg continues: "When Mr. Pierucci was taken into custody in Manhattan by the prosecutors they put under his nose 1 million emails. How did they get 1 million emails? By illegal eavesdropping. One million emails! It would have taken the lawyers 3 years to read through them! So he couldn't defend himself. Those are military tools." Mr. Pierucci ended up serving 25 months in prison.
Montebourg also talked about "extraterritorial law": "The Americans are using a form of law, which is an imperialist law, which consists in declaring themselves competent for matters which in no way concern them. Example: Alstom, a contract between Indonesia and a French company. They consider that there was an offense that was committed in this matter ten years ago and they sue Alstom! The United States is not a victim, no American company was involved in this case. They declare themselves the policeman of the world by undermining sovereign interests. Therefore this is interference. They do it in ALL fields, and especially the economic field."
The ex-minister continues with the example of ITAR: "ITAR is interesting the U.S. created a list of 22,000 components on which it grants itself the right to authorize or not the export by a foreign power. Example: you buy a varnish to put on the wing of the Rafale [French fighter jet] which is on the ITAR list because it is not produced in France but in the US or elsewhere... because of this single varnish they allow themselves the right to say: 'you may export this plane to this country, but not to that one, because it is an enemy of the USA.' Why should I care if it's an enemy of the USA? The enemies of my allies are not necessarily my enemies! ... they banned the export of Rafales to Egypt because of ITAR. ... So our urgency should be to produce these 22,000 products in France... or in Europe, in countries which are also victims of ITAR."
It’s not illegal if we do it!
Further to the 2001 Patriot Act, "When a French company is bought by an American company, the American government has the unilateral power to request all the information on a company controlled by an American company. Absolutely all the information - patents, technologies, people, etc. Without any cause and without judicial authorization, which means that these are illegal searches.
The interviewer asks Montebourg why France "never responds to the attacks..?" His answer is disconcerting: "First, because there is a real, internalized weakness. And also because it has a cost. When [former President of France] Jacques Chirac and [former Foreign Affairs Minister] Dominique de Villepin decided to use the resources they had as permanent members of the Security Council in 2003 on the attacks against Iraq by the USA, it cost us dearly. But I think we have to learn to be ourselves.”
We have lost our liberty
Montebourg: “Etienne de la Boetie wrote a very beautiful book on voluntary servitude. He does say that servitude is a matter of habit. We no longer realize that we have lost our liberty. We must find it again and accept the const of this liberty."
For anyone who paid any attention, none of this is news, nor should it come as a surprise. Back in June 2022, The Hill published an article titled, “US to allow Venezuelan oil to be shipped to Europe: report.” It opened with, “The US will reportedly resume allowing Venezuelan oil to flow to Europe…” Italy’s Eni Spa and Repsol S.A. could now ship Venezuelan oil to Europe as early as July, “after the Biden administration authorized the plan last month.” But apparently, the oil was only allowed to go to Europe – said The Hill – it couldn't be resold elsewhere.
In early August last year (2022), the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, warned African countries not to purchase anything from Russia besides grain and fertilizer, or else they could face sanctions. Thomas-Greenfield said during a visit to Uganda that countries could buy “Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat” but added that “if a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions.”
“We caution countries not to break those sanctions because then … they stand the chance of having actions taken against them,” she added. Thomas-Greenfield said that purchasing Russian oil risks sanctions, even though many of the US’s European allies were still buying Russian crude before a ban would take effect at the end of 2022.
It’s all rules, all the time
Examples of this interventionism are so numerous, it seems that nations only get to transact business with the empire’s indulgence. Last year, Biden administration challenged Mexico’s control of its energy industry, threatening punitive tariffs if Mexico’s internal politics hurt US companies’ business there (see 20 July 2022 Article, “The Biden administration will challenge Mexico’s state control of its energy industry”).
A few months later, on Monday, 28 November 2022 US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with the Mexican President Lopez Obrador “to raise the United States Government’s and our producers’ deep concerns around President López Obrador’s 2020 decree to phase out the use and importation of biotech corn and other biotechnology products by January 2024.” And of course, Mr. Vilsack couldn’t resist throwing in a threat: “The U.S. Government would be forced to consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce our legal rights...”
It’s, do as we say, or else…
It seems that the "rules based order" amounts to, "do as we say, or else..." Montebourg's interview indicates that this order is growing tiresome even for the hegemon’s allies. The grumbling against it is getting increasingly more widespread, bold and direct. The key factor that has enabled the US to force this order on friends and foes alike, was its monopoly on the world's trade currency and its ability to sanction, regime-change or invade anyone who skirted the rules.
But this could soon change and everyone is anticipating the changes. This month, from 14 to 17 June, most of the nations of the global south will be attending the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum when new announcements are expected. They could include a new global exchange system enabling any nation to sidestep the increasingly risky use of the American dollar.
Development of this new system was announced last June and since then, Russian and Chinese diplomats have signalled to the nations of the global south that if they chose to join, they will not be penalized either for defaulting on their debt obligations to western financial institutions, or for re-nationalizing their domestic resources and industries.
If the mood is sour even among US allies, we can be sure that much of the global south is ready to jettison this rules-based order, default on their western debts and even renationalize the most valuable pieces of their national assets. This would be the "bottom falling out" moment for the western financial system.
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Alex Krainer – @NakedHedgie is the creator of I-System Trend Following and publisher of daily TrendCompass reports which cover over 200 financial and commodities markets. One-month test drive is always free of charge, no jumping through hoops to cancel. To start your trial subscription, drop us an email at TrendCompass@ISystem-TF.com