Covid-19 is reshuffling trade practices

In the past, very hard, deadly and sometimes very long wars have been fought in the name of religions. The enemy warriors in those days were not afraid to die because, ones and the others, were convinced that places would await them in paradise.

It seems that this is no longer so much the case today because religions no longer have the same attraction for young people. Young people are now more concerned with protecting their lives and have endless possibilities for entertainment that can make their lives enjoyable. Second, because raising even one child today consumes a lot of time, energy and money, parents no longer accept the idea of foolishly losing their children in armed conflict.

In summary, whatever the cause or the slogan of promoting a soldier’s life today, a military career is of less and less interest to young audiences.

This being the case, it should be recalled that war has sometimes had virtues in ending barbaric regimes as was the case for Nazism for example. Because the human being adapts, and interests are created, including under the barbarian regimes. So, to bring about change for the better the war could appear, taking into account the sacrifices made, as a solution which brought a benefit in this type of situation. In fact, the adversary in the process of being defeated (Nazism or otherwise) had to choose between laying down his arms and making compromises to preserve what was left of his country or risk losing his life. In these circumstances, the choice is generally quickly made in favor of continuing to live. And to this end, the individual as well as the defeated country can make great concessions to make room for the necessary change.

In the same spirit, considering that lots of international organizations are currently inactive, prevented from doing so or having simply lapsed – like the WTO (See here), or the Codex Alimentarius whose rules are frequently ignored by EU countries and others, or even some Forums like the “G7” which continues to exist without a specific purpose can clearly distinguish it etc. -, the post-Great War world will never have needed so much change to restart on a newly defined basis. Perhaps the Covid-19 (whatever its origin) whose presence is felt by everyone at the moment, and with which the world population must contend from now on, can be a triggering factor for this change which has become imperative but which is slow to materialize.

In this context, relatively speaking, the confinement imposed by the “Coronavirus“, here in Morocco, elsewhere in Africa and in the world, seems to be widely accepted with the hope, in particular, of emerging unscathed from the pandemic for resuming a normal life. There are two main types of debate on the subject at the moment. Schematically, the first is of a sanitary and academic nature and seeks to understand how the virus (SARS-CoV-2; Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) appeared, spread and the risk it represents on different categories of individuals. People also want to understand the effectiveness of measures taken by one state or another to guard against danger and similar information on the same subject. On that purpose, the media bombard us daily with figures, data and countless circulating images. But hindsight is lacking at this moment to analyze all this and to distinguish in this profusion of information what is relevant from what it is not. It therefore seems that the media information on the health aspect of the pandemic must be received – pending the regulatory establishment of the protocols implemented which underlie the operations which generate this data – as being provisional elements which must first be left to settle before a correct analysis for any conclusion about them.

It will surely take a little time, months or even years, before a correct hindsight can allow us to conclude if the current virus will have been more or less virulent (in terms of death, suffering and other hazards) than others coronavirus before him, or even compared to a seasonal flu virus.

The second kind of debate relates to the impact of the pandemic on different sectors (economic, industrial, logistics, leisure, etc.) that sustain the working life of a country. Many of the problems that arise every day require immediate action to, for example, meet the supply of food, hygiene products, medicines and other necessities of life that cannot wait. In this respect, the pandemic seems to have an impact comparable to that of former armed conflicts. Thus, many Europeans, hard hit by this second aspect of the pandemic, compare what is happening to them now to the shortages experienced (recorded) during the Second World War. They refer, in particular, to the rationing of the food that was distributed to them bit by bit. It should be specified that, contrary to a broad misperception, many European countries are far from being self-sufficient, as we are in Morocco for example, in fresh vegetables and fruits which they must imperatively import to guarantee a balanced diet for their citizens. Perhaps this European awareness will help make “EU citizens” think in order to review their scale of values. Because having been used to an abundance of cheap food for decades thanks to the CAP system (Common Agricultural Policy) – intra-European overproduction aid which has proven harmful for us Africans – the question of the origin, the abundance or the low price of this food may never have been asked.

In other words, nobody informs them of the contributions, more or less forced, of our African countries and others, in this miracle of castle life that Europeans have long led at our expense.

In the immediate future, and pending repercussions that the Covid-19 will not fail, in our opinion, to impose for the redesign, among other things, of certain rules and / or circuits of international trade, the discussions are going well all over the world to understand how it all happened. These discussions seem to be the liveliest between member countries of EU. And among the reasons for the ongoing tensions underlying the acrimonious exchanges between European countries there is the fact that few people, including among the Europeans themselves, were in a position to suspect the mind-boggling state of the unpreparedness of EU against this type of disaster. Indeed, European countries which have been denigrating the quality of “made in China” products for years to discourage Africans from doing business with this country, find themselves forced to recant and to jostle at the gates of China, in competition with other countries which, as far as the USA is concerned, have more “cash” for the purchase of Chinese sanitary articles (masks, test kits, artificial respirators and others) to fight against Covid-19.

Note that during this period, the Chinese and other Asian countries concretely help (by material) our African countries, who thank them, to face the Covid-19 while some Europeans give us academic recommendations and suggest to guarantee our loan requests that would arise from the pandemic.

In addition, the extremely negative repercussions of the pandemic on most of the EU’s activity sectors ended up stressing all Europeans and putting in conflict the countries of southern Europe, weakened more by the Covid- 19, to German-speaking countries also affected but having relatively stronger financial backs. Italy and countries of support (Spain, France, Portugal, Greece and others) want Germany and its allies in this showdown (Holland, Austria, Denmark, Finland and others) to show more solidarity towards Latin countries, that is to say accept the principle of contributing financially to the benefit of southern European countries but at a loss as the American federal state would do (to which the EU compares itself all the time) to the benefit of its own states that would need it most. It is true that, in the collective memory of these countries in the south of the Alps, they remember that under the instigation of the Americans who liberated them 75 years ago – contrary to what happened during the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the first world war when Germany was subjected to heavy economic repairs -, these countries of the European south were, at the end of the war, less attentive on the demands for German compensations for the damage which they were caused during the Second Great War. For this and other reasons, Italy now wishes to remind the Germans of this fact. Secondly, Italy and pals also suggest, which is true, that Germany is the country which has benefited from the common market and the Euro more than any other member of the EU and as such it would be right for the Germans to contribute a little out of their pocket for the cumulative losses that the Latin countries have suffered, on the European internal market, since the start of the adventure of the projects of the EU and the Euro.

Even more, although Italy and pals do not dare to say it directly, probably for fear of being accountable to their electorates, the countries sacrificed by German competition know perfectly well that the deterioration of their economies goes beyond the simple loss of competitiveness on EU market. They have also become uncompetitive in markets outside Europe such as the African and other markets. The reason stems from the fact that they compete in mid-range products (consumer products, small vehicles etc.) with countries like Turkey, China and others. But while the latter can manage to depreciate their currency and gain competitiveness, the countries of southern Europe no longer have the means to do so for the euro, a shared currency. And that’s where the shoe pinches.

These inter-European problems mentioned above, and others of the same kind regularly mentioned in the EU media as the recurring denigration by the Germans (often unjustified) of the quality of work in the countries of the south, reveal the depth of the malaise which is gnawing at the European Bloc from the inside. Especially now that everyone remembers the Volkswagen emissions scandal which revealed that the Germans are also high-end fraudsters. As a consequence, the EU project, of which Germany presides over its destiny with France for the task of “moderator”, built around a common market as a central pillar and the Euro as a corollary, all wrapped up in private standards ad hoc, has already started to fray with the departure of the British on the occasion of Brexit. Everyone now believes that the EU Block will continue to fall apart in the near future. It is becoming increasingly clear that Italy and others countries transalpine will gradually distance themselves, perhaps brutally, from other German-speaking countries.

But Europe has suffered more severely in several wars in the past and will be able to recover after the Covid-19 episode.

Now the question that interests this blog is what will happen to us in Africa.

In this regard, we Moroccans have noted with pride that our officials, encouraged by our sovereign, King Mohammed VI, have shown this time a great sagacity for an effective management of the Covid-19 pandemic what, according to EU media, even European countries now envy us. With this, our country is also animated by a great will to contribute to the economic and industrial take-off of other African brother and friendly countries. But as the proverb says: “Well-ordered charity begins with oneself“.

On this subject, although Morocco is well launched to meet the development challenge for itself, it will further convince its African peers of the relevance of its ambition as regional leader by showing, by exemplary and appropriate initiatives, that it knows how to improve work to make it more efficient, more fluid and make us more competitive internationally, particularly in the sectors that matter to Africa, foremost among which is the food industry. With us in Morocco, this sector is managed by law 28-07 of sanitary safety of Food products and placed in the name of the law under the supervision of ONSSA (National Office of Sanitary Safety of Food products). The law stipulates that food products intended for markets, local or export, must comply with the regulations regardless of their final commercial destination. But in reality, if ONSSA responds to the law concerning the surveillance of products on the local market, this body is outclassed by another administration, the EACCE (Autonomous Establishment of Control and Coordination of Exports), when it is to export these same products. While the law specifically names ONSSA as responsible for controlling food safety, the role of the EACCE seems to be redundant. But, in reality, the EACCE represents an anvil around necks of our exporters. Moroccan professionals in the sector know what to do with the export of agrifood products from Morocco in these times can be an obstacle course.

Until proven otherwise, this is not how you can earn leader stripes.

Second, African countries suffer from their dependence on the EU market, which is losing steam and becoming less and less profitable. They look to Morocco which has concluded a free trade agreement with the USA and seem to remind us that fifteen years after the signing of this precious agreement with the Americans, the time has come to energize it for the profit of our local operators before extending the benefit across our continent on the occasion of the upcoming launch of the Zleca (African Continental Free Trade Area). No need to remember that the US market represents the largest market in the world, that it is remunerative and accessing it has become much faster for our African agrifood products after the promulgation of the new health regulations of FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act).

In this vein, This note (article) is also to confirm to “whom it may concern” (in Morocco) that in a large part of the countries of our Continent, all of the AEFS experts (African Experts of Food Safety), a non-profit association that I have the honor of chairing, are ready to lend their support to contribute to the implementation of innovative solutions to streamline inter-African trade and, also, boost export agrifood from our countries to new destinations such as the US market or Asian on the basis of robust African expertise that meets the best standards in force around the world.