TRIPS: The Story of How Intellectual Property Became Linked to Trade, Part 2

This is the second part of a seven-part series with Peter Drahos, a Professor in the RegNet School of Regulation and Global Governance at the Australian National University. He holds a Chair in Intellectual Property at Queen Mary, University of London and is a member of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. In 2004 he and his co-author Professor John Braithwaite won the Grawemeyer Award in Ideas Improving World Order for their book Global Business Regulation. Prof. Drahos is interviewed by Lynn Fries, producer at The Real News Network. Find the whole series here.

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Prospects for the Spanish Left, Part 2

William Saas, Jorge Amar, David Glotzer, and Scott Ferguson

This is the second part of a three-part series on Spain’s economic crisis, the program of the new leftist political party Podemos, and both the limitations and potential of the Spanish left today. This installment focuses on the relevance of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) in transcending conventional balanced-budget thinking. Part 1 is available here.

William O. Saas is an assistant professor of rhetoric at Louisiana State University. His work has appeared in symplokē and Rhetoric & Public Affairs.

Jorge Amar is a Spanish economist, president of Asociación por el Pleno Empleo y la Estabilidad de Precios, or Full Employment and Price Stability Association), and a doctoral candidate in applied economics at the Universidad Valencia. Recently, Amar served as economic advisor for Spain’s Unidad Popular party.

David Glotzer is a valuation analyst at Solidifi, and freelance writer whose background is in Economics and Mathematics. His writings have appeared in CounterPunch, Investig’Action, Strategic Culture Foundation, and Young Progressive Voices.

Scott Ferguson is an assistant professor of humanities and cultural studies at the University of South Florida. He is also a Research Scholar at the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. His essays have appeared in CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and Flassbeck Economics International.

When one shifts focus from the public spectacle of political discord to the more vital behind-the-scenes debate over political economy, the prospects for the Spanish left look a lot more promising. Several major figures in Unidos Podemos, besides Garzón, do understand that the fiscal strictures forced upon Spain by the Troika institutions foreclose any hope for true economic recovery. Informed by the insights of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a select and well-placed few clearly see that monetary union without fiscal union is a tried-and-true recipe for endless austerity (see Alejandro Reuss, “Eurpoean Social Democracy and the Roots of the Eurozone Crisis: Part 1—Monetary Union and Fiscal Disunion,” D&S, July/August 2016). They recognize that jobs and demand, not equilibrium and “confidence,” are the key ingredients of economic well-being. Most importantly, they understand that the last best hope for Spain is to again become sovereign in its own currency.

The impending collapse of PSOE will leave masses of Spanish voters alienated and in search of alternatives to the newly formed PP-led government. While some voters might prefer the familiar feel of PP’s austere embrace, it is a safe bet that many more will defect to the parties that make up the Unidos Podemos coalition. This is, we feel, a very promising development. But in order for a reinvigorated Unidos Podemos to follow through on its promise to deliver the Spanish working class from austerity, the coalition must finally disavow, without apology or regret, the utopian dream of a single-currency Europe.

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Land Grab Update: Mozambique, Africa Still in the Crosshairs

Timothy A. Wise

On October 12, the government of Mozambique quietly announced that it would close its Agriculture Promotion Centre (CEPAGRI), the agency created in 2006 to promote large-scale foreign investment in the country’s agricultural sector. In a terse statement, government spokesman Mouzinho Saide gave no reason for the closure, saying only that its functions would be subsumed under a different agency in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Longtime Mozambique analyst Joseph Hanlon was not so shy, reporting in his October 18 Mozambique News Report that CEPAGRI was finished because those large-scale projects it was supposed to broker: “none of them have succeeded.”

Hyperbole aside, Mozambique’s grand visions of foreign capital modernizing its agricultural sector have indeed proven grandiose. Nowhere is this clearer than in the rich Nacala Corridor in northern Mozambique, where the ProSAVANA project promoted by Brazil, Japan, and Mozambique was going to transform 35 million hectares—nearly 100 million acres—into soybean plantations modeled on Brazil’s cerrado region.

Brazilian agribusinessmen walked away, seeing land that was hardly “unoccupied,” resistance from the communities occupying that land, and poor infrastructure to get any product to its intended markets in China and Japan. ProSAVANA lives on in name at least—and as an ongoing threat to farmers in the region—but so far, the project’s largest product is hubris. (See my previous articles here and here.)

But is land-grabbing over, in Mozambique and across Africa and the rest of the developing world? Now that crop and food prices have returned to their usual punishingly low levels, is the pressure off from foreign buyers looking to acquire large tracts of agricultural lands?

Not according to new data from the Land Matrix Initiative, which has been tracking such deals since the land rush took off in 2007. A large number of formerly announced deals have failed to materialize, as with ProSAVANA, but many that remain are now under contract and coming into production.

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