US sanctions to blame for global supply chain disruptions
History, as many say, repeats itself. Yet the unresolved issues that keep cropping up in the process should be interpreted strictly in accordance with the political ends that powerful countries pursue in the name of trying to resolve such issues in order to maintain their hegemony with no regard for multilateral interests and international relations norms.
This is precisely what has been happening because of powerful countries' camouflaged claims of establishing "democracy" and ensuring freedom in developing and least-developed countries. The fact is that, in doing so, these powerful countries have been denying many developing countries the opportunity to decide their own future. Such moves can have ruinous consequences on global political stability, economic development and people's livelihoods.
US responsible for many regional crises
The sudden withdrawal of the US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan last year created a "vacuum" in the country's security structure, which the Taliban seized to take control of the country.
Worse, Washington first froze Afghan central bank's funds in the United States, and on Friday the Joe Biden administration decided to repurpose half of the money as compensation to the victims of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, thereby deepening the dire humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Such appalling US moves ignore the repeated calls by the international community and global leaders, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, to release Afghanistan's funds, which could save millions of lives in the country and rebuild the embattled country.
Biden issued an executive order on Friday that would split $7.1 billion belonging to the Central Bank of Afghanistan almost evenly between humanitarian assistance to the struggling country and funds to cover judgments from lawsuits that 9/11 victims and their families had filed against the Taliban in US courts.
Besides, the US refuses to lift or ease sanctions on countries such as Iran, preventing the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, which is essential to restore peace in the Middle East. At the Vienna conference to revive the nuclear deal, Teheran asked Washington to lift the sanctions, which would make it easier to execute its housing development plan of building millions of housing units for Iranian people.
The US reported a 7.5 percent jump in the consumer price index a couple of days ago. In fact, inflation in the US is at a 40-year high because of the rising costs of utilities and food triggered in part by the distorted policies of the administration to impose sanctions on countries refusing to follow its political line.
That the US has been misusing its position as a superpower and the world's largest economy is also reflected in the so-called Ukrainian crisis. While major European Union countries have been working to defuse the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the US has been hyping up the "threat" Russia's "aggressive policies" poses to regional and global peace, and warning that it would impose severe economic and political sanctions on Moscow if it doesn't toe its line. The US' aim is to strengthen its hold on European countries, and weaken Moscow's position in the region by extending the NATO alliance up to the doorsteps of Russia.
The US administration has also said it will not allow Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to supply energy to European countries in total disregard of the interests of Germany and other European countries that depend heavily on Russian oil and gas. The US seems least bothered by the fact that its move would further deepen the current energy demand-supply imbalance.
Biden continuing Trump's policies
On the trade front, Biden has not lifted the Donald Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports on the pretext that China has not fulfilled its trade commitments.
Trade data released this week show that US tariffs on Chinese imports have had little impact because demand "shifted…markedly to China in late 2021", with about 30 percent of the trade pact shortfalls induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession. A study by Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics attributed the discrepancy to the failure of such major US manufacturing sectors as automobile and aircraft to "reverse their poor export performance in 2020/21" and to "resume exports in 2021".
In a world that holds dear fair competition and multilateralism in trade, there is nothing wrong with China's trade policies. As for the US' trade deficit with China, many economists say higher tariffs cannot reduce that deficit, and the issue can be "addressed only through negotiations", not "by threat".
Indeed, Sino-US differences, as Guterres has said, risk disintegrating the world into rival spheres of influence. Warning about such a "dangerous" scenario, Guterres emphasized that the world "cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a 'Great Fracture'－each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities".
Moreover, the US sanctions on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will have a negative impact on its trade, financial operations and government-to-government interactions. To begin with, Hong Kong's status as an international financial and logistics hub may suffer because of the US sanctions, so could its efforts to seek the extradition of criminal offenders from other economies.
The US sanctions have also blocked the free flow of goods and services to and from Hong Kong, and created bottlenecks in the normal supply chains, which have impeded cross-border transfer of commodities, leading to price hikes.
US' selfish policies hurting economies
The pandemic's negative impacts on regional and global economies are evident from the disruptions in the global supply chains and the truckers' protest against the vaccine mandate in Ottawa, Canada, which stopped border trade through a vital bridge linking Canada and the US for days. The daily cross-border trade volume through this route is about $400 million.
The lack of components due to the blockage on the US-Canada bridge forced major car companies to shut down operations in Canada. Unfortunately, such pandemic-induced protests and blockages appear to be spreading in the Western Hemisphere.
With the pandemic still raging in North America and many parts of Europe, and due to the negative impacts of the US sanctions on several economies, trade, transport and logistics costs in Hong Kong have shot up, affecting supply networks and hiking commodity prices. While daily necessities have become increasingly expensive, many sectors of the SAR's economy are facing downturns.
In a statement released a couple of days ago, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in Beijing said the central authorities were "highly concerned" about a new wave of COVID-19 infections in Hong Kong. And the meeting between Hong Kong officials, led by Chief Secretary Lee Ka-chiu, and Guangdong provincial officials in Shenzhen recently decided to take necessary measures to support the SAR's drive to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, and ensure regular supply of foodstuffs and other necessities to the city.
In fact, the mainland has decided to increase the number of officials at the checkpoints on the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border to facilitate swift, smooth cross-border trade, so fresh vegetables and other food products could be supplied more easily to the city.
Thanks to the mainland's help to tackle the public health crisis, Hong Kong residents are in a much better position to tide over the difficulties created by the pandemic, which has dealt a serious blow to other economies around the world.
So let's work together to boost trade and economic exchanges between economies, especially between the mainland and Hong Kong, in order to boost global economic recovery.
The author is a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
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