América Latina conquista Europa

EUROPAComprar barato y vender caro. Las grandes fortunas siempre se han hecho con esta fórmula: comprar activos a unos precios atractivos y venderlos más caros. Comprar barato para generar unos rendimientos mayores en un futuro. Pero para aprovechar estas oportunidades es necesario tener liquidez y una base sólida que pueda afrontar desafíos de este tipo, las verdaderas oportunidades siempre suelen encontrarse en tiempo de crisis. Una posición privilegiada en la que hoy en día se encuentran muchas de las medianas y grandes empresas de América Latina, ahora están en posición de comprar activos y tomar posiciones en la Unión Europea (UE). Un mercado, este, que parecía casi imposible penetrar para las empresas de la región por los precios inflados de sus activos durante años de bonanza. La deuda ha debilitado a empresas del Viejo Continente, las ha dejado vulnerables ante competidores más fuertes y saneados, como es el caso de las corporaciones y firmas latinoamericanas. La capitalización de las bolsas europeas está un 40% por debajo de su pico del 2008 y el desempleo hace que cualquier proyecto de inversión sea recibido con una alfombra roja. A pesar de la crisis, la UE continúa suponiendo casi una quinta parte de la economía mundial, un bloque económico sin fronteras con más de 500 millones de consumidores cuya renta per cápita duplica media de la región latinoamericana, con tratados libre comercio con decenas de países. Se trata de mercado interesante para que famosas multilatinas, las cada vez más potentes empresas regionales, den el salto hacia su conversión “multilatinas globales”, directamente multinacionales. Se trata, de alguna forma, del mismo movimiento que las empresas españolas, portuguesas, francesas o alemanas dieron en años 80 y 90 cuando acudieron a comprar empresas en América Latina o implantar allí sus plantas. En aquellos momentos, muchos directivos dudaban si invertir en una región cuyos bancos, las empresas y mercados internos, en general, presentaban importantes problemas y desafíos (efecto tequila, efecto samba, guerrillas en Perú y Colombia). ¿No suena muy parecido a la situación europea actual? Sin embargo, esas inversiones en tiempo difíciles se han convertido 15 años después en mayores alegrías de estas empresas. BBVA, Telefónica, TIM, GALP, Volkswagen, FIAT, Endesa y muchas decenas de grandes empresas europeas y cientos de medianas invirtieron en tiempos en los que América Latina no brillaba tanto, y por lo tanto lograron activos a precios atractivos que a la postre han generado importantes beneficios. ¿Sabrán sacar provecho de la situación inversa que se vive actualmente dentro de empresas latinoamericanas? Aunque lentamente, algo comienza a moverse en este sentido. Algunas empresas regionales comienzan a comprar e invertir, a precios increíblemente bajos en muchos casos, activos en Europa. En venta de Inversis, banco español especializado en inversores de perfil medio-alto y con un volumen de inversión de 4.200 millones de euros, se habla de la presencia de banco latinoamericano interesado. Inversis, que se ha puesto a la venta por entre 100 millones y 200 millones de euros tiene perfil interesante, no está en pérdidas, pero parte de sus dueños (como Bankia, Cajamar, Banco Sadabell) deben venderla para hacer caja, capitalizarse. No es único banco que ha interesado al capital latinoamericano. Banesco pidió información sobre el Banco Gallego, entidad de 700 empleados y 150 oficinas en España con 3.500 millones de euros en activos. Finalmente, no logró hacerse con este banco, pero en diciembre 2012 esta misma entidad venezolana se adueñó del Banco Etcheverria. (ElComercio.com, Ecuador – 29/04/2013)

The Protectionist Non-Surge

Paul KrugmanNow for something completely different. OK, at least somewhat different. I’ve been remiss about posting class notes for WWS543, Trade Policy; I’ll do an omnibus catch-up post soon. But the class goes on; this is the final week. Today I’m talking about protectionism in Great Recession and after, which is mainly about the surprising absence of any major protectionist surge. Why isn’t 2008- playing like 1929, at least on this front? To extent that we have a standard answer, it lies in the macroeconomic diagnosis of protectionism the last time. Eichengreen and O’Rourke have showed, convincingly, the main driver of protectionism in the 1930s was the lack of perceived alternatives to boost employment. Countries that stayed on the gold standard couldn’t take any monetary or fiscal actions to reflate, so they turned to tariffs and import controls. So were we saved from a repeat by the fact we’re in a world of fiat currencies + floating exchange rates? Not so fast. You see, outside euro area countries are free to use monetary policy, but monetary policy isn’t very effective, because we’re up against zero lower bound. (You can argue there’s more scope for expansion than the central banks have used, but anyway they haven’t, so the perceived constraint is there). Countries are also free to use fiscal policy, but Reinhart-Rogoff-Bowles-Simpson-Rehn have scared them into worrying about the deficits instead. Overall, macroeconomic policy has ended up operating within constraints reminiscent of those imposed by gold standard cult. So why, exactly, aren’t we seeing more protection? Why aren’t politicians, even conservative politicians, looking at situation and saying, hmm, a tariff won’t increase the deficit, it won’t involve debasing the currency, but it could clearly help create jobs? One answer might be the “Smoot-Hawley caused the Depression” thing; this isn’t true at all, but it might be serving the purpose of a noble lie. Or maybe it’s the structure of trade agreements. Countries that arguably could really, really use some protection right now are inside the European Union, so no go. The countries outside still know that any protection they impose will lead to big problems at the WTO; the United States has to know that a protectionist response would break up the whole world trading system we’ve spent almost 80 years building. A thought: maybe the secret of our protectionist non-surge isn’t macroeconomics; it’s institutions. (source: Paul Krugman – NYTimes – 29/04/2013)

Presidente electo de Paraguay buscará profundizar el acercamiento con la Alianza del Pacífico

Horacio CartesEl presidente electo de Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, aseguró que hará “todo lo posible” para “profundizar y estrechar” la relación de su país con la Alianza del Pacífico, integrada por Chile, Perú, Colombia y México con el fin de crear una zona de libre mercado. “(La Alianza del Pacífico) es una experiencia que miramos con una atención especial”, dijo Cartes en una entrevista con el diario El Mercurio. “Vemos cómo los países hermanos y con especificidades económicas, culturales e institucionales muy ricas y diversas han logrado coordinarse, generar colaboraciones prácticas con la participación de los sectores público y privado, crecen sostenidamente, miran las experiencias ajenas, simplifican las relaciones comerciales y financieras”, señaló Cartes. Según el mandatario electo, Paraguay debe relacionarse bien con el mundo, especialmente con vecinos, también con los hermanos latinoamericanos y Asia, por lo que el Pacífico es importante. Horacio Cartes también destacó la relación de su país con Europa, Rusia, con quien el Paraguay tiene “una aproximación recíproca de interés creciente”, con los países árabes e Israel, que consideró “referencia muy importante”. Paraguay, excluido en forma temporal del MERCOSUR por sus socios (Argentina, Brasil y Uruguay), resolvió solicitar su adhesión a la Alianza del Pacífico en enero y, según adelantó a fines de febrero embajador de México en Asunción, Fernando Estrada, su petición sería aprobada en la próxima cumbre de la Alianza del Pacífico. La Alianza, fundada en junio 2012, representa el 35% del PIB regional, más del 50% de las exportaciones y mayores ingresos de inversión extranjera directa, y tiene por objetivo facilitar el intercambio de bienes, productos, servicios y personas entre los países miembro. (Fuente: ElEconomista.com.mx, México – 29/04/2013)

When Did Chemical Weapons Become Red Line For US ??

DisturbingThe Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says U.S. now believes with some confidence that the Bashar al-Assad regime used small amounts of chemical weapons against rebel forces. Earlier this week Israeli intelligence had also said it believed al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, and the United Kingdom and France have both said they had strong suspicions. (source: Zachary Keck – The Diplomat – 27/04/2013) 

This is significant because President Barack Obama declared back in August that the U.S. had “communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region” that chemical weapons are “a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or use of chemical weapons. Would change my calculations significantly.” He and his administration have repeated this message on numerous occasions in months since. These statements have led some to rightly bemoan the setting of red lines in general. The casual setting of red lines should be concerning as it tries to impose a black and white solution on a very gray world. This was made painfully obvious a few weeks back when it briefly appeared the rebels may have used chemical weapons against the Assad regime’s forces.

But the larger question that was never really asked was when did the use of chemical weapons become a red line for United States, and should it be? In fact, initial criticism of Obama’s statement was almost solely that by making chemical weapons the red line the president was setting the bar for U.S. intervention too high, implicitly telling al-Assad any other coercive measures wouldn’t trigger U.S. action. Most people seemed to take it as a given that U.S. could not stand back in the face of chemical weapons use, whatever other interests it might have in remaining aloof. This seems extraordinary. After all, although U.S. explicitly warned Saddam Hussein against using chemical weapons against U.S. and coalition troops in 2 Gulf Wars, it has never intervened in a situation before simply because chemical weapons were used by one or both parties. Chemical weapons have been used on a number of occasions, especially before but also after the Geneva Protocol prohibiting their use came into force in 1928. Right around the time Protocol was being agreed upon, the Spanish troops used them against rebels in Morocco in the Third Rif War. Despite being a party to the Protocol, Italy used them against Ethiopians during 1935-1936 Second Italo-Abyssinian War. Japan also used them against Chinese forces during its brutal occupation of that country (the U.S. intervened but only because it had been attacked by Japan). Nazis of course used them against Jewish and other populations inside its concentration camps. Even after WWII they were used on numerous occasions. Egypt used chemical weapons (phosgene, mustard gas) during its war in Yemen (1963-1967). It is widely suspected that South Africa gave Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) troops anthrax, which the latter used to great effect against rebels in 1979. U.S. and others like Thailand believed Vietnam was using chemical weapons in Cambodia and Laos during the early 1980s.

Perhaps most notably, Saddam Hussein used chemical agents extensively against Iranian troops and civilians during the bloody eight year Iran-Iraq war. Not only did the U.S. not intervene militarily to prevent Saddam’s sadistic use of the agents, it formed an alliance with him. Indeed, soon after Saddam’s forces began using mustard gas against Iran in 1983, Ronald Reagan sent Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad to help cement ties with Iraqi dictator. This alliance was maintained even when Saddam began using chemical weapons against his own Kurdish population later in the 1980s. None of this is to say that the U.S. shouldn’t necessarily intervene if Syrian forces have used chemical weapons. Among other things, doing so could set a powerful precedent against their use in the future, given NATO’s intervention in Libya has appeared to make Assad cautious about using aircraft against the rebels, which certainly can’t be said of his father. Rather, this history is just meant to highlight that the threshold for U.S. military intervention continues to drop, and for reasons that appear independent of the U.S. national interest.

Returning to the Land or Turning Toward the Sea? India’s Role in America’s Pivot

INDIAFew diplomatic overtures have generated loftier expectations in the recent years than Washington’s rapprochement with New Delhi. Frequently at loggerheads during the Cold War, then kept apart by the U.S. commitment to counter-proliferation and India’s pursuit of a nuclear deterrent, the 2 sides have never had a warm relationship. That began to change during the George W. Bush administration, a transformation that was symbolized by a controversial agreement allowing United States to sell civilian nuclear technology to India, despite its status as a nuclear-armed nation that is not recognized by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Obama administration has since picked up where its predecessor left off. The president, for example, has called India a “natural ally” of United States, while his former secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, declared that India was “a linchpin” of America’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific. While there were many reasons for the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy to mend fences, perhaps the most important reason was the one that few officials could point to in public: the rise of China. In modern times, tensions between New Delhi and Beijing date back to their border war in 1962. In fact, the contested boundaries between these two powers are some of the only land border disputes that China has yet to resolve. To keep up with Beijing’s growing military power, India needs to modernize its armed forces, which means moving away from its reliance on the Russian hardware and looking toward Europe and United States. Meanwhile, Washington is searching for ways to preserve its position in the Asia-Pacific as China’s strength continues to increase. Having the region’s other rising power on its side is a good place to start. If a partnership between United States and India makes sense on paper, so far improved relations between the 2 nations have hardly been game changing. There are host of explanations why fruits of strategic collaboration have been relatively modest, from bureaucracies on both sides that have impeded potential arms sales, to broader considerations such as the fear of antagonizing China. One important factor, though, is the mismatch between what United States wants India to do and what New Delhi is best suited to do. Proponents of closer ties between Washington and New Delhi often view India as a budding maritime power. As then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared in 2010, “India can be a net provider of security in Indian Ocean and beyond.” For example, with a bigger and better navy, India could help patrol vital sea-lanes, deter or counter smuggling operations, combat piracy, provide humanitarian assistance far from home, and respond quickly when natural disasters strike. All of this could help relieve some of the burdens shouldered by U.S. Navy, which is juggling its day-to-day role as a global security provider and first responder with longer-term challenge of a shifting military balance in Western Pacific. Not surprisingly, areas like counter-piracy and humanitarian assistance are at center of U.S.-India security cooperation today. The only problem is that India isn’t a maritime power: it’s a land power. To be sure, Delhi is building and buying new ships and submarines, and seems determined to bolster its naval capabilities, which is hardly surprising given its location astride some of the world’s most important sea-lanes. But major military challenges it faces come from on shore, and Indian Army continues to be the nation’s dominant military service in terms of size, influence, and budget share (…..)

Link: http://thediplomat.com/2013/04/28/returning-to-the-land-or-turning-toward-the-sea-indias-role-in-americas-pivot/

ESTADO DE EXCEPCION

ESPAÑALos ciudadanos alemanes pueden tener una razonable confianza en que programas de gobierno que van a figurar en las ofertas electorales de los partidos en las elecciones parlamentarias que se celebrarán en otoño de este año prefigurarán la dirección política del país en los cuatro años de la legislatura. En Alemania los partidos no tienen temor en decirles a los ciudadanos lo que piensan hacer, porque tienen la convicción de que es lo que esperan los ciudadanos de ellos y que no los van a penalizar por la sinceridad de sus propuestas. Siempre habrá después una distancia entre el programa electoral y la acción de Gobierno, porque es imposible que no la haya. Pero no es previsible que exista una contradicción notable, cuando no prácticamente absoluta, entre lo que se somete a aprobación del cuerpo electoral y lo que va a ser después acción del Estado. En esta correspondencia entre la propuesta electoral y acción de gobierno posterior descansa la democracia. Cuando esa correspondencia quiebra, formalmente puede mantenerse una apariencia de democracia, pero materialmente estamos ante otra cosa. (Fuente: Javier Pérez Royo – El Pais.com – 27/04/2013)

Es lo que viene ocurriendo en buena parte de los países de la Unión Europea (UE) desde hace tres años aproximadamente. Contradicción entre programas electorales que votamos los ciudadanos y la acción de Gobierno posterior está llegando a límites que hace poco hubiéramos considerado no intolerables, sino incluso inimaginables. Estamos en buena parte de los países de la Unión Europea ante un estado de excepción, es decir, ante la suspensión de facto de la vigencia principio de legitimación democrática del poder. En teoría, principio legitimación democrática sigue presidiendo la vida del sistema político, pero en la práctica no se respeta. Ocurrió en Grecia cuando Papandreu quiso someter a referéndum la aceptación de las condiciones del rescate aprobadas por la Comisión Europea. Ocurrió también con la designación de Monti como presidente del Gobierno en Italia. Está ocurriendo en todas las vicisitudes por las que está atravesando Portugal. Está volviendo a ocurrir en Italia tras el resultado de las últimas elecciones. Y llevamos instalados en ese estado de excepción en España desde el 20 de noviembre de 2011. Tal vez España sea el caso más expresivo, porque no debería haber sido así. España ha sido el país europeo en el que alternancia en el Gobierno una vez desatada la crisis se produjo de manera más impecable desde un punto de vista democrático. Desde mayo 2010 se había producido una quiebra notable entre programa electoral con el que José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero fue investido presidente y la acción de gobierno, en consecuencia, esa anomalía debía ser corregida. Y fue corregida mediante un proceso electoral limpio que puso fin anticipadamente a la legislatura y que permitió a Mariano Rajoy acceder a la presidencia del Gobierno en unas condiciones de legitimidad indiscutibles.

En España se celebraron las elecciones después de que la crisis económica se hubiera manifestado con toda intensidad durante más de 2 años. En consecuencia, programas electorales se pudieron hacer con conocimiento de cuál era la situación en que se encontraba el país, así como todos los países de nuestro entorno. Es difícil imaginar una situación mejor para elaborar un programa anticrisis, a fin de someterlo a los electores. El resultado de las urnas fue concluyente, proporcionando al PP una mayoría más que absoluta, dada la distancia a la que quedó el PSOE. En esas circunstancias debería haberse producido la correspondencia entre la propuesta electoral del PP y la acción posterior del Gobierno, así como respeto a todos los procesos a través de los cuales tiene que canalizarse el ejercicio del poder en democracia. Las Cortes Generales deberían ejercer funciones parlamentarias en los términos previstos constitucionalmente. Ciudadanos deberían recibir periódicamente explicaciones por parte del Gobierno a través de los medios comunicación social, así sucesivamente. Está ocurriendo todo lo contrario. Contradicción entre programa electoral y la acción de Gobierno es prácticamente absoluta. El Gobierno ocupa la potestad legislativa recurriendo permanentemente al decreto ley. Esquiva el control parlamentario, abusando de su mayoría en la interpretación del reglamento del Congreso de los Diputados, se exime del control de medios de comunicación de manera permanente, negándose a admitir preguntas o a dar ruedas de prensa. El ejercicio del poder está siendo un ejercicio fraudulento. Formalmente, la Constitución no está suspendida, materialmente no hay ni una sola institución que esté cumpliendo su tarea de la manera constitucionalmente prevista.

Where would you rather live: small-government Somalia or big-government Sweden ??

SOMALIAWhisper it quietly, but I quite like big government. These days, it’s unfashionable to say so. From New Labour to Blue Labour, from the compassionate conservatives to neoconservatives, consensus is that big government is bad government: slow, inefficient, intrusive, bureaucratic, overbearing, anti-democratic, anti-growth. “The era of big government is over,” President Bill Clinton (Democrat) declared in January 1996. Conservatives rejoiced. Guess what? September 2008, the big government was back. “We must act now,” announced President George W Bush (Republican), as he unveiled his $700bn bank bailout plan. This champion of free markets went on to bail out auto industry and, in effect, nationalise mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Mehdi Hasan – NewStatesman – 23/04/2013)

Here in UK, as former chancellor Alistair Darling revealed in his memoir, it was big government that prevented cash machines from being switched off and cheques being torn up. Banks were nationalised; multibillion-pound loans and guarantees were offered. So, why this disconnect between rhetoric and reality? Why this constant railing against positive power of collective action? The public doesn’t like big government, say fans of … small government. Yet how else to explain our ongoing love affair with the (scandal-ridden) National Health Service, which in its structure and funding is big government pure and simple? Why else are so many of the people whom voters tell pollsters they admire most, doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers, police, usually employees of big government? Not yet convinced? Polls also show significant public backing for renationalisation of the railways. And not just the railways: a 2009 poll found two out of three voters supported taking the electricity, gas, water and telecommunications industries back into public ownership. (Come back, Michael Foot – all is forgiven.)

Small-government supporters claim that countries with high levels of public spending grow more slowly. Yet, as Columbia University economist X. Sala-i-Martí concluded in his 1997 study I Just Ran Four Million Regressions, “no measure of government spending…appears to affect growth in a significant way”. In his 2004 book Growing Public, the University of California economist P. Lindert agrees, countries with high levels of government spending don’t perform any worse than countries with low levels of government spending. Doesn’t big government crowd out the private sector? Stifle free enterprise and innovation? Not necessarily. Consider the arguments of Mariana Mazzucato, the Sussex University economist and author of “The Entrepreneurial State”. “Where would Google be today without the state-funded investments in the internet, and without US National Science Foundation grant that funded the discovery of its own algorithm?” she wrote in the Guardian in April 2012. “Would the iPad be so successful without the state-funded innovations in the communication technologies, GPS and touchscreen display? “Where would GSK and Pfizer be without the $600bn the US National Institutes of Health has put into research that has led to 75% of most innovative new drugs in the last decade?” Critics of big government say it crushes community spirit and civic engagement. Again, the empirical evidence suggests otherwise. “Among the advanced western democracies, social trust and group membership are, if anything, positively correlated with size of government,” Harvard academic R. Putnam observed in his acclaimed book “Bowling Alone” (1995). “[S]ocial capital appears to be the highest of all in the big-spending welfare states of Scandinavia,” he wrote.

Ah yes, Scandinavia. Despite having, I accept, much smaller and more cohesive societies than US or the UK, the highspending, the high-growth Nordic nations continue to baffle and frustrate Anglo-Saxon small-staters. Take the UN’s first ever World Happiness league table in 2012: Denmark, where government spending accounts for 58 per cent of national income, topped the list, followed by Finland (54 per cent) and Norway (44 per cent). Here in the UK, public spending may have peaked at 50.8 per cent of GDP in 2009, in the wake of the bank bailouts, but since 2010 the austerians of the Conservative-led coalition have been cutting spending year on year. Using the latest IMF figures, Peter Taylor-Gooby, a professor of social policy at University of Kent, has calculated that by 2017 government spending, as a proportion of GDP, will be lower in the UK than in the United States, 39.1 per cent to 39.3 per cent, for the first time since records began. “I was astounded,” Taylor-Gooby tells me. “Even after First World War, and the round of cuts then, we didn’t go this far.” Meanwhile, those who pine for a leaner, meaner, smaller state cannot answer simplest question: how would small government have paid for the bailout of RBS, Lloyds and the rest? The Treasury has coughed up roughly £850bn to prop up UK’s financial sector, according to the National Audit Office. Can small government tackle the threat of runaway climate change and rising costs of adaptation and mitigation? It is forecast that the global warming bill will run into trillions of pounds. It may be fashionable to want to roll back the state, but ask yourself this: where would you rather live, “big-government” Sweden or “small-government” Somalia?