How Trade Is Affected by Recent Foreign Policies


Despite the fact that it hasn’t yet actually happened, ‘Brexit’ is doing all that its supporters hoped it would: it is seriously shaking things up in Europe. Already the economy has slowed right down, people all over Europe are scrambling to gain residency for fear of being kicked out of their country of residence without the correct passport, and the political chaos that has ensued needs no mention. 

Following the 23 June 2016 referendum that asked the British populice the question “should the United Kingdom (UK) remain a member of the European Union (EU), or leave the European Union?”, a mere margin of 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent voted that the UK should leave the EU. And so it was decided that the country would extrapolate itself from the clutches of the club that links some of the world’s strongest nations to one another. 

Everyone – from the IMO, to the Bank of England, to the Confederation of British Industry to Barack Obama – said the change in foreign policy would have major implications on the UK’s economy and on global trade, warning there would be major financial shocks in the near term as well as long-term economic decline. But the nation forged ahead, committing itself to establishing a new trade relationship with EU27 by the end of the two-year window, and as a result hopefully boosting the British economy for the first time in many years. 

The irony of all this, is that the UK decided on Brexit in a bid to fix itself and drag itself out of the stagnant economic situation the rest of Eruope had found itself in – but in reality, uncertainty over the Brexit outcome has simply damaged the UK’s economic growth, seeing it drop from 2.4% in 2015 to 1.5% in 2018. Businesses are shutting up shop and moving their headquarters from the UK to other parts of the EU, and the British pound fell from $1.48 on the day of the referendum to $1.36 the very next day, according to the GBP index and dollar index. But perhaps the most consequential impact of Brexit has been on global trade.

Beyond that the mere exiting of the UK from the EU set a global precedent for countries leaving trade agreements (TAs), meaning that in future the exit process may become more difficult, Brexit might even have had such an impact that it will discourage the future creation of TAs. This is because they will likely become more costly to negotiate and perhaps less valuable once established due to reduced flexibility or insufficient integration. 

On the ground though, moving to an EU free trade deal and establishing new free trade agreements with the US, Australia and New Zealand following Brexit has an estimated negative impact on the UK economy of 1.4% – equivalent to £28 billion or £1,000 per household. By eliminating Britain’s tariff-free trade status with the other EU members, it will raise the cost of exports, in turn hurting UK exporters as their prices would therefore jump up in price, making them less affordable to EU buyers. The weaker pound, however, will negate some of the impact. Despite knowing all this the British government has nonetheless forged ahead, claiming free trade is the best way to increase exports, investment and support local businesses. 

Some other sad and potentially difficult outcomes of Brexit for the British people are that tariffs will also increase the cost of imports into the UK – one third of which come from the EU – creating inflation and lower standards for UK residents. Many UK companies could also lose the opportunity to bid on public contracts in EU countries, an ill-considered aspect of Brexit by the UK government and one that could cost the UK workforce billions in the long run. Banking is another area which will be hit hard by the change in foriegn policy, which is significant when one considers that British banks lend nearly $1.4 trillion annually to EU companies and governments, and most financial activities taking place in Europe are either directly or indirectly performed out of London.

It’s not all negative, though. In the long-term,the UK could certainly benefit from greater non-EU specific trade, by reducing barriers bilaterally with countries like Australia and New Zealand. New trade and investment agreements with these non-EU partners have the power to open the UK market to enhanced overseas competition, while simultaneously allowing the UK to focus more on areas of strength, such as services. There is no argument that Australia is well positioned to redefine its trade and investment relationship with its motherland, so it is therefore likely Australia as well as the UK will benefit from Brexit in the area of trade.

The thing is, countries that are open to international trade tend to grow faster, innovate, are more productive and enjoy higher incomes than those that do not. Open trade also benefits lower-income households by giving consumers access to more affordable goods, and services. Has the UK shot itself in the foot by voting yes for Brexit? The answer – for the time being – is yes, it has hurt the UK economy. But hopefully in the long-run, having a future relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation will save the UK.

Why Immigration Remains Crucial to the Economic Development of America


America has always been painted as a land of opportunity, which is why there are so many people in the world scrambling for the opportunity to get a foot through the door. Some who have the financial stability to go through legal means apply for an EB-5 Visa, while others use the less conventional way of crossing the border through Mexico. However, after President Trump’s tightening of the border, it does seem as though America is becoming less “land of opportunity” and more of a “land of oppression”. 

A large percentage of immigrants find refuge in America to escape the poverty in their home countries. It is those very people who need financial and health assistance the most. However, with the new legislation passed by the current president, which will take away green card benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, or housing assistance. While this may seem like “justice” to some, it should also be noted that immigrants take up the jobs that nobody else wants to do in America and they pay taxes, same as everybody else. 

In 2015 alone TheStranger reports that, “undocumented immigrants alone paid at least $23.6 billion in income taxes, which funds social services that they cannot even use. We shouldn’t be deporting these people; we should be thanking them and giving them green cards”.

Claiming that “our country is full” is a short-sighted proclamation. One that would lead America into devastation. It is a relief that it seems the president is unable to truly stem the flow of immigrants making their way into the land of the free through the Mexican border which is almost 2000 miles long. Despite the president’s mounting frustrations, there is simply too many for border patrol to realistically control. Thousands of immigrants were forced to be released as many more take their space in holding areas. 

Immigrants are a vital part of the American economy and if you remove them all, you will be removing approximately 30% of the working force. This will bring unemployment rates to new levels, as America is already facing a shortage of workers who are interested in working back-breaking positions or fill up labourer roles. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office believes that it is immigrants which are making the country richer and without them, the country will shrink. He has advised Republican presidential candidates and now leads the conservative American Action Forum. 

With the falling birthrates, and Americans marrying later and later, the workforce is slowly diminishing. Currently, there are 7.3 million jobs that need to be filled across the nation and there are 6 million unemployed people, including the homeless and those that are unable to work. This gap will only continue to increase as the older generation workforce retires with no new workers to replace them. This is why immigrants are crucial to the economy, without them, the future of America is beginning to look quite bleak

Imagine a country that has a construction industry void of workers, who will you send for if you need repairs? What if you want to install that deck around your house? Who will be building homes for the next generation? This is what will happen if immigation is put to a complete stop and it will affect not just one industry, but many across the nation

Another contribution of immigrants to the economy is how they create a demand for more jobs. While many Americans have complained about the problem of immigrants “stealing their jobs”, the opposite is true. While immigrants are a competitive factor in the workforce, they also generate a demand that needs to be filled. More houses, more developments, groceries, childcare, etc. Furthermore, immigration offers cheap labour which means that more households are capable of affording drivers or domestic help which only the affluent were able to afford. This luxury or convenience would not be as accessible if immigration did not play such a big part in the American economy. 

At the end of the day, immigration in America is essentially a two way street. Not in the sense that there’s a back and forth flow of migration, but that where immigrants take up jobs, they create new demands as well. In allowing immigrants into the country, it helps it flourish in terms of economic value and injects more life into a dwindling population. Americans and their president should learn to see the bigger picture rather than focus on the “downsides” that immigration has brought to the country. While we cannot deny that there is a strain on the healthcare system and support system that America has in place for the millions of homeless and disabled in their country to support the immigrants that have come with empty pockets and sick children, we must also remember that these people are the hope for the future generation. They arrive in America with the potential for contributing, and they will build up the economy, one immigrant at a time. 

A deeper look into Gamble vs. United States and the plausible legal changes ahead


Laws across the globe vary by country. Each democratic governing nation has the ability to continuously change law based off new case hearings. For the United States, their law dates back to English Common Law which is a historic period of protestant and catholic separation and reformation within the scope of religion being the basic premise for decision making under a jurisprudence court. When the United States separated from Great Britain and gained their freedom after the Revolutionary War, they were able to create their own government and do it in a truly democratic way. Although the French were honest pioneers of democracy, the United States took their own spin on government making it a republic of democracy where states would govern themselves, but federal law would continue to always trump state law. The United States of America sends representatives each election term from the electoral college to vote in favor or against the upcoming candidates and laws. Although the situation of having an electoral college has been persistently argued in recent years, it still remains the way of decision making during elections.

Although historically recognized as English Common Law, today the United States often changes law based off of the judiciary branch. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear cases throughout each term year and then deliberate and decide on how to move forward with either citations or a changing the law itself with new verbiage that creates current accuracy. Frequently, it is stereotypically thought that law is only created by the U.S. Congress, yet that type of thinking can be highly inaccurate because case law frequently determines going forward.

The interesting understanding of case law is that it takes a higher intellectual knowledge and thorough understanding of previous cases. Case law is determined by previous precedent. A lawyer in hopes of getting his or her case to SCOTUS will first have to argue in a state court then appeal to a state supreme court of appeals before being granted a SCOTUS case. SCOTUS is the highest court in the United States with 9 justices on the bench. As cases are scheduled to be heard, the public informants generally take their stance on the situation explaining possible outcomes of each decision that could be made. In one recent case heard, Gamble vs. United States, the instance of the double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment on the Constitution is under review.

Terance Martez Gamble was convicted for possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon. Gamble petitioned to SCOUT that the separate sovereigns exception in the fifth amendment can elicit double jeopardy because a person can be tried in both a state and federal court. Gamble was tried in a federal court and given a sentence duration of one year. After appealing, he was tried again in a federal court and sentenced to 46 months in prison. The claims of his legal federal criminal defense team are that being tried for the same crime is a double jeopardy. The double jeopardy clause claims that a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime; however, under federal jurisdiction of the between state and federal court, a person can be tried in each court. Gamble vs. United States was argued on Dec. 6th 2018, but the ruling is still pending. This case could determine a factor of things regarding the legal future of the United States. First, the Special Counsel investigation into the Trump campaign is concerned due to the fact that this case, if ruled in the favor of Gamble, could not allow states to hear cases from people that president Donald Trump has pardoned at the federal level. It also calls into question a further logical review of double jeopardy and the entire due process for appellate courts. The special rule involving separate sovereigns exception is because the United States is built on the foundations that states govern themselves. It would create an odd facet of combined legal gray area between state and federal courts. The reasoning behind the dual sovereignty doctrine is more than just keeping a healthy separation between courts; it also is in place for the understanding that state offenses may greatly differ from federal offenses. Given the varying underlying differences the prosecution of federal criminal defense and prosecution at the state level, this is why SCOUTS has upheld the dual sovereignty doctrine within the Fifth Amendment which also explains double jeopardy.

Legal analyst argue over which side is correct, but at the current moment, it is truly up to SCOTUS to make their decision for the future of the United States. Some lawyers that are in favor of Gamble make claims that the sovereignty clause is essentially one large loophole for state and federal courts to get away with double jeopardy. The individuals in favor of the United States believe that keeping a separate sovereign doctrine allows further emphasis on the fact that states govern themselves and appellate courts are in place for important reasons.

Trump’s Dangerous Views on Asbestos

Donald Trump will easily go down as one of the most polarizing Presidents in the history of U.S. politics. In the eight months since he has held the Oval Office his administration has been plagued with accusations of corruption and disorganization, and the ‘talk first, facts later’ attitude he had on the campaign trail has morphed into a reckless style of legislative governance that is both unpredictable and often, misinformed.

Amongst the many outrageous claims Donald Trump has made over the years, are a number of dangerously ignorant comments about asbestos.

Donald Trump’s pro-asbestos sentiment can be traced all the way back to 1997 and his The Art of the Comeback book, in which he claimed he believed the anti-asbestos movement was rigged by the mob.
Within the pages he also calls an anti-asbestos law “stupid” and inaccurately claims asbestos is “…100 percent safe, once applied.”

Trump also supported the 9/11 asbestos conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory suggests that the Twin Towers would never have collapsed if asbestos had been used for the entire structure, rather than just the first forty floors. As recently as 2012, Trump was lending the conspiracy theory credence, tweeting “If we didn’t remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down.”

Considering many 9/11 first responders have suffered respiratory complications due to the clouds of toxic asbestos dust which lingered over downtown New York City, these comments seem crass and insensitive. But many experts believe it is not just first responders who were at risk while the city was engulfed in the hazardous fumes, 90,000 everyday citizens showed up to assist with the search for survivors amongst the burning rubble of the twin towers. These people also inhaled the noxious fumes. Some experts have estimated that the death toll from 9/11 will rise into the millions over the next few decades, as symptoms related to the effects of exposure to asbestos and other poisonous chemicals begin to manifest in the population.

Trump has also been a proponent of “safe asbestos” or the chrysotile-defense. Which argues that it is the amphibole-containing products which are dangerous. This claim is widely disputed by health and medical professionals, as 95% of the products used in the United States historically were mostly chrysotile.

Countless scientific studies have linked the substance with various forms of cancer, a 2005 study from Yale University’s School of Medicine even linked asbestos with colon cancer. The World Health Organization has recognized the risks of asbestos for decades, stating “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).” The carcinogen has been banned in over 50 countries.

Asbestos can be both inhaled and ingested, and the material has been used for everything over the years, resulting in citizens gulping down microscopic fibers in their water, as it ran through asbestos cement pipes. Or breathing it while they slept thanks to asbestos based ceiling insulation.

Court evidence has revealed that multiple companies contributed to a cover-up of the dangers of asbestos as early as 1929. A chilling example includes the largest manufacturer of asbestos based products in the USA, Johns Manville and company president Lewis H. Brown. Brown was made aware of the chilling effects of asbestos on his workers, by local physicians as early as 1949. However, Johns Manville continued to produce products containing asbestos up until the early 1980’s. The EPA did not classify asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant until 1971.

Donald Trump’s ill-informed views are a slap in the face for those sufferers of mesothelioma and other cancers caused by asbestos, who are now facing renewed concern about the toxic substance and the ban on its use in the USA. Thanks to a combination of Trump’s pick for the role of director of the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt and the proposed budget cuts to the Agency’s funding.

Pruitt has been accused of a non-committal stance toward the banning of the product. When pressed for answers he’s cited the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act as a reason to spend three years reinvestigating the risks that asbestos may pose. In response to senators’ questions regarding his position, Pruitt suggested that “prejudging the outcome of that risk evaluation process would not be appropriate.” He’s also been accused of approving other toxic products with little regulation by several environmental groups, and members of the democratic party referring to his appointment as a disaster.

In the United States, asbestos litigation is the longest and most expensive mass tort in all of US legal history, involving over 8000 defendants and costing millions in legal fees. Analysts expect costs in the USA alone to reach over $200 billion. The lengthy proceedings and costs involved with Asbestos proceedings in the USA several firms dedicated to providing legal support to those affected like The Ledger Law Firm who provide legal advice to claimants and offer fee-free representation to those whose hearings are unsuccessful.

Today about 125 million people worldwide are still exposed to asbestos in the workplace, and occupational exposure to the carcinogen has been responsible for over 107,000 deaths. New cases of mesothelioma are constantly diagnosed each year, with over a thousand cases diagnosed in 2015 across America, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Safe asbestos may be an ‘alternative’ fact that Trump supports. But the risks and the science behind the dangers are clear, and to grave to be ignored in the name of profit, or convenience.

What’s Next For Malaysia’s Najib Razak?


The arrest of Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia, on Tuesday represents a clean break from the past for all of Malaysia. The end of one-party rule has opened up the possibility of a new era of good governance in the country.

The arrest of Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia, on Tuesday was widely expected. In fact, many Malaysians were hoping he would be arrested immediately after the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was defeated in the May 9 election.

Najib was the main reason why UMNO lost – he was widely seen as corrupt and the main person behind the scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state investment fund.

US prosecutors have accused Najib of diverting US$731 million from 1MDB into his personal bank account. Many people assume Najib’s arrest is connected to this fund, but legally speaking, he faces charges relating to a company called SRC international, a one-time subsidiary of 1MDB.

SRC took a loan of about US$1 billion from a state-run retirement fund and Najib is alleged to have siphoned off about US$10.5 million from the top. The money allegedly ended up in his bank account, the same account that was implicated in the 1MDB affair.

Najib has denied any wrongdoing, and on Weddnesday pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Why was Najib not charged in the 1MDB probe?

The simple answer is that the 1MDB investigation covers multiple jurisdictions. At the last count, money involved in the 1MDB affair is believed to have passed through the following financial systems: the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, among others.

It is simply not possible to put such a complex case together in such a short amount of time following the election of opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad two months ago.

The good news is that, under the new Mahathir administration, foreign governments will now have access to Malaysian documents related to the 1MDB probe. The US, Singapore and Switzerland are among the countries investigating the scandal. When Najib was in power, all financial institutions in Malaysia refused to cooperate with these foreign probes.

Why is SRC International different?

The key factor here is a star witness, a former director of SRC International who decided to come forward to testify for the prosecution. This individual was too afraid to come forward when Najib was prime minister. That is no longer the case.

There are several key witnesses in the 1MDB scandal who may be thinking along the same lines as the former SRC director. With Najib no longer in control, some of these witnesses may now turn against him, as well.

Top of the list is Jho Low, the accused mastermind of the 1MDB scam. He is believed to be dividing his time between Macau and Taiwan, both places where extradition to Malaysia is not possible.

Another important witness under tremendous pressure to come forward is Tim Leissner, the former Southeast Asia chairman for Goldman Sachs, the bank that handled most of the 1MDB bond sales. He was pushed to resign from Goldman Sachs in February 2016, and both Singapore and US securities regulators have banned him from working again in the financial industry.

An interesting side note is that he is better known in the US as the husband of Kimora Lee Simmons, an American model and fashion designer and the former wife of hip hop mogul Russell Simmons.

What’s next in the Najib case?

By charging Najib, the Mahathir administration is keeping an electoral promise to take action against the former leader. But more importantly, the new government is also sending a strong message to Malaysians and the international community that it is serious about cleaning up the mess left by Najib’s government, especially when it comes to corruption.

For Najib, this will likely be the first of many trials he will face, as more charges are expected in the 1MDB case. It’s also likely that Najib’s family members, including his wife, stepson and son-in-law will face charges, as they are alleged to be direct beneficiaries of the stolen funds.

And this will likely bring an end to the Razak political dynasty in Malaysia for the time being. Najib’s father was Malaysia’s second prime minister and many of his immediate relations used to hold political office. Until the election in May, Najib’s cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein, had been Malaysia’s defence minister.

UMNO will also need to shed its associations with Najib in order to rehabilitate its image among the Malaysian people. Last weekend, the party elected a new president, former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

All in all, Najib’s arrest represents a clean break from the past for all of Malaysia. The end of one-party rule has opened up the possibility of a new era of good governance in the country, which was unthinkable just three months ago. In today’s “new” Malaysia, anything is possible – even calling to account a former prime minister who was just defeated.

More importantly, going forward, the Malaysian public will demand full accountability from their leaders, both past and present.

Authored by Professor James Chin

This article was originally published as “What’s next for Najib Razak, Malaysia’s disgraced former prime minister?” in The Conversation on 5 July 2018, and is republished with permission.