American Unilateralism and the Global Crisis

20 July 2018 | 15:27 Code : 1977919 From the Other Media General category
By Mohammad Nahavandian, Iran’s Vice President for Economic Affairs
American Unilateralism and the Global Crisis

1. Friday, July 6, marked the anniversary of signing the Bayonet Constitution in Hawaii of the late 19th century. 131 years ago, in 1887, Kalākaua, the king of Hawaii, under the threat of bayonet and lobby of the Americans and a group of white businessmen called Hawaiian League, who were mostly involved in sugar production, was forced to sign a new Constitution. Backed by the military arm of the Hawaiian League, the Bayonet Constitution changed the voting rights, as it gave the foreign Americans and Europeans the voting right, but restricted the native Hawaiian to only those who could meet certain financial requirements!


Later, authorized by the direct intervention of their secretary of state, the American military forces suppressed the native Hawaiians’ protests against foreign interference in their domestic affairs. A few years later, the Americans overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy and annexed the independent country to the United States due to its strategic importance. In other words, they didn’t recognize a right for a nation in the Pacific Ocean, which they had already recognized for themselves based on the Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1783. Despite their human rights rhetoric, the American statesmen authorized themselves to use force in order to change the fate of others. With such attitude, they not only gave priority to the interests of the United States over other countries, but they presumed that the rights of Americans stands above those of others.


2. In 1929, the US Senate passed a law titled the Hawley–Smoot Tariff, which imposed the highest rate of tariffs on imported commodities in the history of that country. The then US president, Herbert Hoover, who chanted slogans on protecting domestic production and maintaining jobs for American farmers and won the presidential election of 1928, signed the tariff act into law. Earlier, the first World Economic Conference in Geneva, 1927, which observed the symptoms of recession and the Great Depression in the world economy, called for all countries to remove tariffs and boost international trade in a bid to improve economic growth. In the United States, in a petition addressed to Hoover, 1,028 economists expressed their protest against imposing limitations on trade. However, pressed by Congress, Hoover implemented the plan and raised tariffs on imported goods by 59 percent. In retaliation, other countries also raised their tariffs on American commodities. Although at the beginning, the tariff act introduced by two Republicans, Representative Willis C. Hawley and Senator Reed Smoot increased the employment rate and the number of production agreements, due to the retaliatory measures taken by other countries, US exports sharply dropped by 61 percent, and the GDP fell to less than a half within the next four years.


On the other hand, the unemployment rate which was eight percent, hiked up by 25 percent in just three years. Many historians and economists believe that the Hawley–Smoot Tariff Act and the unilateralist policy adopted by the US government were the key factors in the continuation and exacerbation of the recession in the global economy, as it reduced the scale of world trade to 33 percent and prepared the ground for World War II in 1939. Despite their populist slogans, Smoot and Hawley could not even save their House seats and had to leave office two years later. Once again, the egoistic and unilateralist attitude of American statesmen pushed their country and the entire world to a major crisis and an unprecedented destructive war. American arrogance led humankind to a catastrophe which cost the lives of more than 60 million people across the world.


3. Nowadays, the world is struck again by a new wave of populist unilateralism. The current mindset which gives priority to the interests of the United States of America without trammeling other nations’ rights has taken action against international agreements. Recently, the incumbent US president has announced that his country is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord under the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change. Likewise, US politicians have since violated regional trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and have set high tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum and automobiles from other countries. The US has also withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program. All such decisions clearly trammel the rights of people in other countries and damage life and business environment throughout the world. They have launched a global trade war, which paves the way for economic recession and in turn threatens world security. This dangerous approach is rooted not only in profiteering in business, but also in an egomaniac view of the one who sees himself superior to others and falsely believes he has the right to determine the fate of others. Such an arrogant view is evident in the decision to ban travel of people from some Muslim countries to the United States and the inhumane separation of illegal immigrants’ children from their parents.


4. However, our time differs crucially from the 19th and 20th centuries in terms of the growing public awareness of events and politics. Even if it has disadvantages, the Internet also has great advantages, as it facilitates transparency and rapidly conveys the demands of people. In the age of information explosion, archaic and outdated 19th century minds are less likely to dominate public opinion. Therefore, they look less impressive and their long-term consequences will become evident in a short period of time. At the moment, all people throughout the world understand the true meaning of “America First,” which indeed means “All for Powerful America.”


Throughout the world, including the United States, a consciousness is growing toward the catastrophic policies of the US government which has caused widespread negative responses. Governments of other countries are also challenging the unilateral measures taken by American politicians, for instance, in the fight over tariff rates. The upcoming midterm elections of the United States in November will show the extent to which American voters are aware of the looming threat. In order to avoid a global tragedy, governments across the world should respond seriously and clearly to unilateralist, hostile measures taken by the American government. Those who know the past and can foresee the future are tasked with playing a significant role on the scene of the world’s public opinion and increase people's awareness.


*Mohammad Nahavandian is Iran’s Vice President for Economic Affairs.


Source: Iran Daily

tags: united states Donald Trump