The German Green Deal has a new rallying cry: end cheap flights to Majorca. At the same time, the Biden government’s new shoe tariffs threaten the Spanish consumer goods export flagship. And if that were not enough, the increased tension with Morocco is pushing towards the closure of companies and factories relocated there by Spanish capital over the last few decades. The Spanish imperialist model is in a state of crisis and is dragging down the industry. Spanish imperialism looks again to Argentina and Mexico looking for the first time not only for markets, but also for capitals to which it offers a beachhead in the EU.
Table of Contents
- Germany: the end of the cheap flight era
- USA: Biden threatens the Spanish footwear sector
- Morocco: Spanish companies are being pushed out
- The decline of Spanish imperialism and the new European game of Mexican and South American capital
Germany: the end of the cheap flight era
It has become the first big topic of the German pre-election campaign. Making headlines yesterday from Der Spiegel to Die Zeit: Annalena Baerbock, the Green party’s candidate for chancellor and favorite to succeed Merkel wants to abolish short-haul flights and for there to be no more 29-euro flights to Majorca.
This is not surprising. Aviation only accounts for 2.5% of global CO2 emissions. But along with the meat trays on sale at Lidl it has become a symbol of German and European environmentalism, the totem representing the guilt of a working class whose consumption habits would be causing climate change. If Baerbock points to the flights at €29 to Majorca, this is no coincidence, she wants a lecturing flag for a campaign which, once in government, will serve to legitimize a whole series of measures intended to hit hard the workers in Germany. The end of the era of cheap flights and vacations in Spain is just around the corner.
For the Spanish government, which has been saddled with 1.5 billion in aid to airlines, of which 800 has gone to AirEuropa/Globalia, the prospect of the end of German mass tourism could not come at a worse time. In 2021 the contribution of tourism to the trade balance is set to fall from that of the already disastrous 2020. Much of the stakes, aid and temporary layoffs have been based on the prospect of a recovery of the source of foreign currency that has fueled the accumulation of Spanish capital since the 1960s.
Not only Germany and not only tourism demonstrate the failure of Spanish imperialism in the European game. The French Climate Law conceals a blow to Spanish food imports.
It has served Spanish imperialism no good to obediently align itself by default with France and Germany during all European summits and institutions. The Green Deal is going to be accompanied by a restriction of internal imports in those things which Spain has been selling in Europe since the post-war period and which were the pillars of its development plans: tourism and agriculture.
USA: Biden threatens the Spanish footwear sector
The other flagship sector of Spanish exports since the 1960s, footwear, is faring no better. The Biden government has not only maintained the tariffs imposed by Trump on oil, wine and cheese. It is now threatening a tariff on Spanish shoes of between 25 and 35% if the Spanish government does not withdraw the Google tax. With more than half of the production sold in the US, the mere threat has already paralyzed most of the factories and may turn into a new wave of layoffs. It also comes at a difficult time for Spanish imperialism in its relations with the U.S.
The lowering of the amount of the Google tax in the government plans was enough for Trump but has not been enough for Biden. Nor were the beautiful gestures of bidenism by Yolanda Díaz and Sánchez or enlisting the former in the Summit of leaders for the climate organized by the U.S. president. When push comes to shove, the American friend grabs the tariff stick and ignores the investment carrot… and Spanish imperialism discovers its weakness in preserving access to the market it has most coveted for the last three decades.
Morocco: Spanish companies are being pushed out
It can be argued that much of the textile and shoe industry has already been offshored to Morocco and that the potential impact of the U.S. tariff is at this point much less than it would have been twenty years ago. But the collapse of Spanish imperialism’s position seems to haunt Spanish capital in its investments in that country as well.
Morocco deflected the impact of the closures of the first phase of the pandemic on the Saharan sweatshops by encouraging a dangerous migration to the Canary Islands that has already claimed hundreds of lives. Its underlying aim, as it turned out not long after, was to pressure Spain to recognize its domination of Western Sahara at a time when the recognition by the US… and the corresponding increase in armed tension with Algeria was already being prepared. The Spanish response came late and when it arrived it showed a weakness that could not go unnoticed by the Moroccan Makhzen.
The kicks and low blows then started to succeed one another in expectation of a gesture from the Spanish government which, when it came, turned out to have the opposite direction to that expected in Rabat: the Spanish government picked up and gave medical assistance to the dictator-for-life of the phantom Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic maintained by Algeria on the basis of the 150,000 refugees/prisoners it keeps on its soil under Polisario control. As expected, the attitude of the Makhzen bureaucracy towards Spanish imperialism could only get worse.
According to a report published yesterday in a Spanish economic media:
The Moroccan authorities are already talking about taking commercial reprisals and curbing Spanish investments in that country, where 1,455 companies with Spanish capital operate and an accumulated investment stock of more than 4. 750 million euros, according to data from the Moroccan Office des Changes, while Trade data counted in 2019 (before the pandemic) more than 21,800 Spanish companies that exported to that economy for a value of 8,454 million, 2.7% more than a year earlier. […]
According to sources close to the Moroccan Executive, three scenarios have come to be handled by way of retaliation: a brake on Spanish investments in major infrastructure and tourism projects that Morocco has underway; the official claim of sovereignty of Ceuta, Melilla and even the Canary Islands; and in some more radical circles there is even talk of a state of war with Spain. Some Spanish businessmen with interests in the area have already turned to Spanish institutions in search of coverage and in view of the tension against everything Spanish that is being experienced in economic capitals such as Casablanca or Marrakech, as well as in the capital Rabat, although there has been no official reaction from the government.La Información
The truth is that, for now, Spanish companies are being excluded from public funding and state contracts and concessions are largely written off. If the situation escalates further, much of the Spanish capital present in Morocco would have to leave the country. The economic and political defeat for Spanish imperialism would be catastrophic.
The decline of Spanish imperialism and the new European game of Mexican and South American capital
The diagnosis of all this pile of disasters for Spanish imperialism outside its borders is evident. The alignment with Germany and France, the complicity with Biden’s USA, collaboration with Morocco… the three pillars of Spanish foreign policy are turning into as many waterways of its global imperialist position.
The root cause: the peculiar role of Spanish imperialism in the European and global game. Spanish imperialism, since the times of Felipe González, plays a difficult balance: compensating its weakness against Germany and France on the one hand and against the US on the other by oscillating between both sets of imperialist interests with the reinforcement given by its own weight in Ibero-America.
However, over the last 15 years that weight has been steadily declining. Large Spanish companies and banks, from Repsol to Telefónica, from BBVA to Santander, have sold assets to obtain liquidity and save balance sheets at home. Worse still is the linkage of the companies themselves with the US capital markets, concentrating the expectations of Spanish capital in three Pacific countries -Chile, Peru and Colombia- and their governments… which are now in the grip of a domestic crisis.
While Spanish imperialism’s capital relations with Argentina were reduced to a minimum after the nationalization of Repsol-YPF by the previous Peronist government, the tone with Mexico soured to the extreme of the recent anti-Iberdrola law and even in the Inter-American Development Bank (local branch of the World Bank trying to hold the pressure on Chinese capital in the region) the Spanish participation was outweighed by… Japan.
Result: If the dependence on the European recovery funds were not enough, by losing weight in its traditional bases Spanish imperialism loses even more steam against its allies. And the immediate result, as we have seen, is a simultaneous and full-fledged attack on its traditional exporting sectors. That is to say, a full-scale attack on its imperialist interests.
Sánchez, aware that in order to regain negotiating capacity vis-à-vis Brussels and Washington he needs to reinforce the role in Ibero-America of the Spanish champion companies, announced yesterday morning that it will turn the planned trip to Argentina into an expanded and corrected reissue of its Hispanic-American tour of 2018. The novelty? For the first time, Spanish capital is not only going to look for markets, but to raise foreign capital.
Now the offer of a strategic alliance made by Alberto Fernández last week at Moncloa makes perfect sense. Spanish imperialism seeks to revive itself by becoming a launching pad for South American national capitals in the European market, probably by offering seats on its boards of directors to large groups of South American and Mexican capital in exchange for uniting their destinies. Quite a few interests are already pushing in this direction. If the offer comes to fruition, whether it is led by Spain or another European country, the global imperialist map would be turned upside down.