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Always more figures...

Last week’s Le Point revealed a surprising figure—one single, astounding figure: 14%! According to an OECD study, 14% of current jobs in industrialised countries are in danger of being lost to automation over the next 20 years. The magazine continued in more detail: “The figure is 16.4% for France, a percentage slightly above the average, lower in Norway (5.7%), Finland (7.2%) and Sweden (8%), but much higher in Greece (23.4%) and Slovakia (33.6%).

That is something to think about, and it raises the question of the future of employment. If the most traditional types of jobs disappear, how will employment recover? The economic journalist Pierre-Antoine Delhommais wrote an invariably vitriolic column in the same magazine entitled “Macron, the Farewell to Liberalism”. For Delhommais, the occupant of the Elysée “has become the President of the payslip and appears to have given up on “denationalising” the French economy. He accused the President of having slipped more than 15 billion euros of public money into the wallets of the French, something we haven’t seen since 1981. He added that “in five months, the person who wanted to jump-start growth through exports has become the one to suggest boosting GDP by buying products made in China. In a word, after being accused for two years of being an abominable liberal, [Macron] is openly behaving like an ardent Keynesian”. This is a serious statement‒a surgical strike‒and the facts are undeniable.

At the same time, economist Nicolas Baverez was pointing to the risk of a battle of rights between countries, claiming that “the legal argument has become a weapon of mass destabilisation”. An example is American imperialism, which rejects multilateralism in favour of extraterritorial rights through regulatory authorities, and sanctions against companies and foreign countries (China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, etc.)”. And right on cue, the Monday edition of the daily Les Echo’s reported that the consequences of that policy were felt this week by the Asian markets, which had a painful awakening to stock exchanges that were sharply lower across the board.

The blame goes to Donald Trump who, the night before, had announced an increase in tariffs on Chinese products starting this Friday. “In mainland China, the Shanghai composite index closed down 5.58% while the Shenzhen index lost 7.38%. On the Hong Kong exchange, the Hang Seng index lost 2.9%, while the markets were closed in Japan on Monday. Stock exchanges in Taiwan, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia were all down sharply. Investors were taken by surprise by Donald Trump’s raging tweets, just several days ahead of trade talks in Washington that are considered to be last-chance negotiations. Trump, who had been tweeting these last few weeks to congratulate himself on progress in the negotiations, announced the impending increase of 10% to 25% in tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese products, justifying this measure by the fact that negotiations were not advancing quickly enough”. In a sign of Beijing's embarrassment, the communist regime had not reacted by midday Monday to Trump’s tweets, which the official media did not even mention.

According to several American media outlets, the Chinese government is now planning to cancel negotiations if the tone escalates further. Such cancellation would be in line with Beijing's strategy of not negotiating under threat. “We will not negotiate with a gun to our head”, the Chinese authorities warned last year, amidst the trade tensions with Washington. So, once more, the strategy is threat, a sign that the time for negotiation and soft diplomacy is behind us. The consequences could be dangerous. But there will be plenty of time to settle accounts. Always more figures…

Christian Moguérou

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