An American Adrift

(…..) When the actual day of the 10th anniversary occurs, the ceremonials arranged by the White House will be sensitive, intelligent, suitable. How could they not be? And it will be proper to respect what President Obama is trying to do, and to respect American emotions. These events will undoubtedly attract all the chatter of the absurdly short-term media in this country, eager for instant coverage and unintelligent commentary. Obama will strive to be above that. But what of those of us who are attempting to step back from these memorials and ask questions about where America is in the world now compared to a decade ago? Has the United States been weakened, or strengthened? How has its foreign policy been affected, in the largest sense? And perhaps the real answer to that critical last question might be this: That the largest effect of 9/11 upon America is that it became distracted. Distracted in two very important ways. In the first place, it was distracted from many other things that are going on in the world. Secondly, it’s been distracted from the erosion of its financial strength and international competitiveness. Let us look briefly at the first matter. In its own hemisphere — surely among the most important areas in the world to U.S. interests — a new Latin America is emerging, unsteadily but observably. There is human catastrophe in Haiti, an uncertain future for Cuba, the continued idiocies of a sick Chávez regime in Venezuela, and drug-gangster wars from Bolivia to Mexico. Yet there is also the extraordinary transformation of Brazil, the success of Chile, and the quiet recovery of Argentina. But does the United States have a positive, carefully crafted strategy for Latin America? Of course not. Africa, apart from a few lights of promise, trembles over the pit of environmental and demographic disaster, but Washington leaves that problem to the World Bank. Europe fades further away. Russia is neglected. An India-Pakistan policy is, well, hard to describe. And American views on China range from blind enthusiasm to calls to build up the U.S. Navy immediately. And all this neglect for adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq that are now being wound down. This will be hard to explain to history students in 50 years’ time (…..)



An Israeli spring ??

“If the situation here remains unchanged,” warns Avia Spivak, “we’ll get the sort of violent protests they had in England.” A professor of economics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Mr Spivak was deputy governor of the Bank of Israel until 2006. Now he heads a team of economists advising the young leaders of a huge, inchoate social protest movement that has been demonstrating and camping out in city centres across Israel for much of the summer. (source: The Economist – 08/09/2011)

The movement, which has neither name nor structure, held its final event —for now— on the evening of September 3rd. It broke all records. Some 450,000 people thronged the streets of Tel Aviv and three other towns, all calling for social justice, affordable housing, cheaper basic food and better social services. The main rally, in Tel Aviv’s State Square, was notable not only for its size but because State Square (a roundabout, in fact) is in Israel’s swankiest shopping precinct—and yet not one shop was damaged or daubed. It has been a well-behaved revolution, mainly of the young, educated middle class: couples with qualifications and jobs who still find it hard to make ends meet. Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of Israelis found themselves swept up in a fellowship of frustration. One trigger may have been a class action brought by a retired accountant against a public company over a deal that he believed was unfair to shareholders. In June, in an out-of-court settlement, the company agreed to pay $45m. At the same time, but probably unconnected, a young husband and father suggested to his Facebook friends that they all stop buying cottage cheese at the inflated, cartel-driven price it was being sold for. Within weeks a countrywide boycott had almost halved the price. Two weeks later, a 25-year-old film-maker was evicted from her rented flat in Tel Aviv and told her Facebook friends that she was pitching a tent on Rothschild Boulevard, in the shadow of the bank and insurance buildings on either side. Soon there was no room to knock in another tent-peg.

Now, with the children back at school, the tent-dwellers are packing up. The movement’s leaders are preparing to spar with a government committee hastily set up by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. It is due to deliver its first clutch of recommendations within weeks. Its chairman, Manuel Trajtenberg, rejects Mr Netanyahu’s trickle-down market philosophy. Mr Netanyahu concedes that “corrections” are needed. “I know how hard it is to buy a flat or rent a flat,” he says, “and that people don’t have enough for basics like education.” But Israel’s economy has largely escaped the global turbulence, thanks, he says, to his policies. Mr Trajtenberg has been asked to make proposals within the limits of the state budget. Mr Netanyahu and his ministers seem almost to echo the protesters in railing at the tycoonim (the word has been Hebraised), the score of super-rich Israeli families who control much of the economy, including former state-owned industries now privatised. “Crocodile tears,” sniffs Hay Badra, a prominent protester. “Bibi invented the system.” Despite its numbers, the movement presents no immediate threat to Mr Netanyahu’s government. The protest leaders claim to speak for all types. But Israel’s West Bank settlers, religious Israelis and Russian immigrants, all key constituencies in his ruling coalition, have been markedly absent from the tent-cities. Tzipi Livni, leader of the opposition, says her Kadima Party in effect endorses the protesters’ demands. “The real solution to the economic malaise is the ballot box,” she says. But an election may not come until 2013; time enough, say Mr Netanyahu’s supporters, for him to show his empathy with the demonstrators.

Beijing: Canciller de Argentina se reunió con representantes de las más importantes empresas chinas

“La República Argentina y la República Popular de China están consolidando una relación estratégica”, señaló el Canciller Héctor Timerman al presidir ayer en la ciudad de Beijing una reunión de trabajo con los CEO’s de las 35 empresas más importantes de China, algunas de las cuales ya cuentan con una presencia inversora en nuestro país. En su visita oficial, el titular del Palacio San Martín, está acompañado por 80 empresarios argentinos que integran una Misión Comercial Multisectorial. (Fuente: Cancillería de Argentina – 09/09/2011) 

Durante el encuentro, Timerman, acompañado por el Secretario de Relaciones Económicas Internacionales, Luis María Kreckler, explicó que “esta relación estratégica se ve reflejada en la frecuencia de las visitas recíprocas de funcionarios del más alto nivel” y recordó “la visita del ex Presidente Néstor Kirchner a China en julio de 2004; la visita de Hu Jintao a nuestro país en noviembre de ese mismo año; la visita de la Presidenta Cristina Fernández de Kirchner a China en julio de 2010; y las visitas, cada vez más frecuentes, de Gobernadores, Ministros, Secretarios de Estado e importantes delegaciones empresarias”.

Timerman recordó que “el pasado mes de julio la Cancillería firmó un Memorándum de Entendimiento en materia de inversiones con la Agencia China de Promoción de las Inversiones (CIPA). Hemos detectado un gran interés por parte de la comunidad empresarial china en la diversidad de oportunidades de inversión que ofrece la Argentina, como quedó demostrado por la numerosa presencia de empresarios chinos (cerca de 700) durante las actividades realizadas en el marco de la última Misión de Inversión Multisectorial a las ciudades de Shangai y Beijing”. “Ambos países tienen economías que vienen demostrando una excelente complementación. China es un socio clave para el desarrollo económico de la Argentina, y por lo tanto deseamos continuar consolidando nuestras relaciones económicas, comerciales y sobre todo en materia de inversiones. La integración productiva, la complementación industrial y tecnológica y la asociatividad, son prioridades que ambos países tenemos; el contexto mundial actual nos ofrece una oportunidad única para profundizar estas dimensiones”. El Canciller puntualizó que “la Argentina, China y otros países emergentes estamos liderando el crecimiento mundial luego de la fuerte crisis económica global de los años 2008-2009, persistiendo aún hoy riesgos y vulnerabilidades en los países desarrollados. Argentina cuenta con un marco previsible para seguir captando más y mejores inversiones productivas y continuar transitando el camino hacia el desarrollo sustentable con inclusión social, y se posiciona como una excelente plataforma para que las empresas chinas que se establezcan puedan proveer a los mercados del MERCOSUR y a la región”.

Queremos una mayor presencia de empresas chinas en Argentina: en el transcurso del último año se han realizado una serie de anuncios de inversión de empresas chinas en Argentina, principalmente en fusiones y adquisiciones, como es el caso de los anuncios de inversión efectuados por el Grupo Noble (Noble Argentina), TCL Corporation (Radio Victoria Fueguina), Shaanxi (Tierra del Fuego Energía y Química), Pony internacional (Pony Argentina), Midea SA (Midea Group) e ICBC (Standard Bank Argentina), pero aún así la relación bilateral en materia de inversiones se puede caracterizar como incipiente y con un altísimo potencial. Sobre el final, Timerman concluyó que “el estado de la relación bilateral; la estrategia de internacionalización de las empresas chinas que está teniendo lugar desde hace algunos años; los volúmenes de capital disponibles; la alta complementariedad de las economías; el crecimiento económico de ambos países; las tasas de rentabilidad y la diversidad de oportunidades de inversión que ofrece la Argentina, sientan las bases para que podamos concretar este potencial”.

Mañana, Timerman será recibido por su par, Yang Jiechi, y por el Vicepresidente chino, Xi Jinping, principal candidato a suceder a Hu Jintao en 2013. Además, dejará inaugurado en Beijing un Seminario sobre oportunidades de Negocios en la Argentina, con la presencia de 500 empresarios chinos, durante el cual se identificarán sectores en los que existen oportunidades concretas de incrementar inversiones y asociaciones estratégicas entre China y Argentina. En tal sentido, se presentarán los 64 proyectos de inversión incluidos en el Banco de Proyectos de Inversión Productiva (BaPIP), entre los cuales se destacan proyectos en alimentos y bebidas, software y servicios informáticos, productos químicos, madera y muebles, agronegocios, energías renovables, infraestructura portuaria, turismo y servicios inmobiliarios, entre otros. Los empresarios argentinos tendrán, entre Shanghai y Beijing, unas 800 rondas de negocios (organizadas por la Cancillería argentina), con sus contrapartes locales. El año pasado, el comercio bilateral se incrementó un 65% y trepó a los casi 13 mil millones de dólares.