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  • Writer's pictureMare Greco

Anastasios Papagiannopoulos: Globalisation turns into regionalisation of production and trade

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends, Please allow me to express my sincere gratitude to Mrs. Despina Travlou and her Colleagues for this wonderful place and this wonderful conference.

We are living in a period of transformations and changes which will influence our modes of living, working, and trading in a big way. Very briefly, we will have to face the following main factors: First, the globalisation turns into regionalisation of production and trade with detrimental results for both. Second, increased impact of the environmental issues and the fight against pollution. Third, a fight against economic inequality which will dominate the political debates of the developed world economies. Fourth, a catch-up process of the emerging economies in their efforts to shorten the process of their economic development. Fifth, the development of 5G technologies and transformations in the ways we produce and consume.

Within this general framework, the People’s Republic of China and the European Union are two key players. It would be quite challenging to look at their respective policies and their impact on the world economy. The European Union, a partnership of mainly developed economies, is passing through a very interesting stage. First, the exit of the UK after a long period of inconclusive and traumatic negotiations, may be considered as an indicator of short-sightedness and lack of vision. Both parties try to protect narrow economic interests under the pressures of political constituencies, which did not understand the strategic aspects of the relationship.

Second, the emerging distance in the policies of Germany and France undermine the most important axis of the European Union structure. Third, the reluctance of Germany to lead and adopt a more expansive economic policy increases the gap between north and south in the Union. Fourth, the bureaucratic paralysis in Brussels and the predominance of narrow nationalistic and sectional interests, make the elaboration of any coherent strategy for the future difficult, if not impossible.

On the other hand, the European Union has some quite stabilising aspects that we have to take into account: First, the members have sustained a combination of low rates of growth and unemployment at a high level of living standards. Second, Germany and its close allies, have a very strong interest in the continuation of the Union from which they draw substantial economic benefits. Third, there are no realistic economic alternative policies for the countries which have disagreement with them. Fourth, the geopolitical conditions do not allow independent strategies for the remaining members.

So, if we exclude from our vision issues related to the environment, immigration, and slow population growth, the European Union looks peaceful, happy and stagnant. Quarrelling on several secondary issues, fighting about problems of identity, and sharing a fund allocated by the European Commission, we do not feel the need for dynamic change.

When, however, we turn our attention to China, the picture becomes very different. If we try to understand the People’s Republic of China on the basis of our Western models of economic development, we shall have very poor results. The phenomenal growth of the Chinese economy for the last 40 years cannot be explained by our concept of economic and democratic development.

In the case of the People’s Republic of China, we have to focus on the following main points: First, the political system is autarchic, hierarchic, and controlled by one party. Second, there is a thriving competitive sector coexisting with parts of the economy controlled by the state and the local authorities. Third, this strange combination has unleashed a very strong developmental wave of growth, with unprecedented results for a long period of time. Fourth, the Chinese opened their economy to Western capital and technology, but eventually they managed, through imitation and heavy investments, to develop their own industries. Fifth, the leaders of the People’s Republic of China have developed and applied the belt and road strategy, building up partnerships and exploiting the economically neglected areas and vacuum in the world economy. Sixth, the foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China is non-aggressive, carefully structured, trying to avoid military ventures and quarrelling traps. Seventh, in the trade war with the USA of President Trump, the Chinese reacted with measured tenacity, keeping the door always open for negotiations.

However, if we want to have a realistic picture of the People’s Republic of China, we have to take into account the following grey areas: First, there is a question mark over the viability of the relationship between autarchy and economic development. The Chinese leadership appears reluctant to concede any room to demands for more democracy.

Second, the situation in Hong Kong seems escalating into a local crisis and the problem of Taiwan remains without a solution. Third, the phenomenal rates of economic growth look difficult to continue and the leadership tries once more to stimulate the economy with infrastructural projects. Fourth, the trade war with the USA has not finished and the European Union has started pointing to trading issues between the two economies. However, considering the pros and the cons of the Chinese economy, the balance is clearly positive for the moment. The Chinese developmental miracle may have soft spots, but overall is impressive and unique.

In conclusion, we are faced with two diametrically different economies following diverging trajectories, although both of them are major players in the world economy: - The Chinese are trying to manage their dynamic growth in a period that soft spots and grey areas start to become clearly visible. - The Europeans continue to handle their economy in the spirit of business as usual, although the developments in world economy and the new technologies create challenges that they appear unprepared to manage. One must be extremely brave to dare a prediction about the winner and the loser in this race. Thank you very much.

Mr. Papagiannopoulos has been a principal of Common Progress since its establishment in 1984 and has more than 37 years of experience in shipping.

Mr. Papagiannopoulos has been elected from 1996 until 2018 on the Board of Directors of the Union of Greek Shipowners and from 2006 until 2018 in the Executive Committee of the Union including Committee Chairman of the Seaman’s Social Security and Labour Issues. He is the Immediate Past President of BIMCO and an elected member of the Executive Committee where he had served since 1998 as an elected member of the Documentary Committee. Since 2004 he has also been an elected member in the Greek Committee of Det Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd (D.N.V.G.L). Mr. Papagiannopoulos has been elected (2006) in the Executive Committee of the International Chamber of Shipping (I.C.S.).

Mr. Papagiannopoulos holds a BA in Law from the National University of Athens, an MSc in Economics from Queen Mary College, University of London, an MA in European Integration from University of Reading and a PhD in Economics from Queen Mary College, University of London.

Anastasios V. Papagiannopoulos's full speech:


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