Iranian Vice-President for Economic Affairs Mohammad Nahavandian has, in an article published by Khabar Online, weighed in on the ramifications of Washington’s unilateral approaches. The full text of the analytical piece follows.
- Friday, July 6, marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Bayonet Constitution in Hawaii in the United States in the late 1900s. One-hundred thirty-one years ago (in 1887) on such a day, Kalakaua, the monarch of the tiny kingdom of Hawaii, had to sign the constitution under the force of the bayonet and threat of terror by a pressure group organized and armed by the Americans and other foreigners residing in Hawaii as well as the CEOs of foreign sugar companies. The constitution gave the Americans and Europeans the right to vote, but set limitations and the condition of being rich for aborigines in Hawaii! Consequently, American troops openly backed by the then US secretary of state quashed any objection by Hawaiian aborigines to this blatant foreign interference. Years later, the US changed the government of Hawaii before occupying it due to its strategic importance in the waters of south Pacific Ocean. The Americans refused to give residents of their neighbouring island the same rights that the US had recognized in the country’s constitution for its own people a hundred years before, i.e. in 1788. Despite all their humanitarian rhetoric, the US reserved the right to use force and determine the fate of others. Based on that mind-set, the US would put its interests before those of others, and give itself more rights than others.
- Eighty-nine years ago in 1929, the US Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act which slapped the highest-level duties on imports into the US in the country’s history. Then US President Herbert Clark Hoover had just won the 1928 presidential election with the slogan of support for local production and employment for American farmers on the threshold of the severe worldwide economic downturn known as the Great Depression (1929-1939). An economic forum of the League of Nations in 1927 in Geneva, which saw signs of a global economic slowdown, urged all states to set aside tariffs and boost international trade to give fresh impetus to economic growth. Some 1,028 American legislators also wrote a letter to Hoover expressing their opposition to trade restrictions. However, Hoover, under pressure from Congress, enforced the 59-percent tariffs on imported goods. Immediately, other countries imposed similar duties on American commodities in a retaliatory move, leading to 61-percent drop in American exports and a decrease in the country’s GDP to less than a half during the following four years. The unemployment rate, which stood at 8% at the time the tariffs were ratified, jumped to 25% in three years. Many historians and economists believe the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act and the United States’ policy of unilateralism during that period, which led to a 33-percent decline in global trade, were the key contributors to the fueling an perpetuation of the global economic downturn and set the scene for World War II at the end of the 1930s. Senator Smoot and legislator Hawley, despite populist slogans, could not even maintain their seats in Congress in the congressional elections two years later. American statesmen’s selfish and unilateral mentalities once again plunged the US and the rest of the world into an unprecedented crisis and conflict. A mentality which prioritized American interests brought humanity to a crisis whose human cost was to strip 60 million people of the right to live worldwide.
- Today, the world has once again faced a new wave of common unilateralism among American politicians. It is a current which claims prioritizes American people’s interests, but is not against the rights of others. Nevertheless, the first steps taken by this current was to counter the international Paris Agreement on climate change, disrupt regional trade agreements, namely the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), slap high tariffs on imports of aluminium, steel and automobiles, and pull out of the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. Such moves violate the rights of people of other countries, harm global environment and trade, and result in a global trade war, setting the stage for a global downturn, which poses a threat to world security. The root cause of this dangerous approach is not only profiteering in the trade domain, but is the egoistic approach which considers the US superior to others and gives it the right to determine others’ fate. This arrogant point of view is clearly manifested in Trump’s decision to ban travellers of certain Muslim countries from entering the US and to separate children of illegal immigrants from their parents.
- However, the important difference between our era and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is the widespread awareness of incidents and policies. The global virtual world, even if it has shortcomings, has a major advantage, and that is, it provides for transparency and enables people to put forward their demands immediately and on a large scale. The old and threadbare mentalities of the 19th century have less chance of success in the era of information explosion. Their long-term consequences can be seen in a shorter period of time. Today, everybody in the world understands the true reality of “everybody should be sacrificed for powerful Americans” and react to it. Currently, all across the world, namely inside the United States, have a more widespread awareness of, and show reaction to the disastrous repercussions of the US government’s policies. Other countries, too, have begun reacting to Washington’s unilateral moves, namely the tariff war. November elections in the United States will show to what extent American voters are aware of this global danger. Governments and nations need to show serious and firm reaction to Washington’s unilateral approach and policies in order to ward off a global catastrophe. Those who are familiar with the past and can see the future shoulder the onerous responsibility of contributing to the world public opinion.