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Tariffs and Sanctions: A New Energy Trade War?

Trump has become the top promoter for  increasing exports of  US Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to world markets. 

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The Trump Administration trade policy is nowhere so clear as in the energy area.  For years it was thought that the younger Bush Administration was one of the most energy industry friendly in history.  But the Trump Administration has gone far beyond that.

Hiring Ray Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, as US Secretary of State, sent a strong signal to the entire industry, even though his tenure proved to be temporary.

Prior to that, the Administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, a long held priority of Exxon and the entire oil industry.  Following hard upon that, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reduced or eliminated regulations limiting carbon and other pollutants.

Exxon has for more than a decade underwritten the now discredited, right wing attack on climate change as a hoax.  Although the energy industry has now publicly acknowledged climate change as a global threat, in practice the subject is still largely ignored.

Going further, the Trump Administration has removed and reduced regulations that hampered the industry expansion, including allowing drilling on both ocean coast, while easing safety regulations that were brought into effect after BP’s Gulf of Mexico disastrous spill, the worst in US history.

Regulations have also been relaxed for flaring of natural gas from oil drilling sites, a major contributor atmospheric carbon.

Government protected nature preserves are being opened to exploration and drilling for the first time in generations. Added to that was the dropping of regulations that for many years prohibited export of US crude. Since then, the US has become a major player in the global energy industry.

The Administration currently plans to rescind and lower fuel efficiency standards for autos and trucks. That is likely to encourage increased purchase of larger SUVs, increased oil consumption, and rising gasoline prices.

The Administration corporate tax cut, one of the largest in US history, also strongly benefitted  the energy industry, as it did other industries.

From the moment he chose to run for President, Trump has embraced the new shale revolution in the US as a major contributor to the country’s economic growth and energy independence.

Increasingly, Trump has become the top promoter for  increasing exports of  US Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to world markets.  He openly threatened to place economic sanctions on Germany if it went ahead with the deal for Russia’s new Nordstream 2 pipeline, that would nearly double natural gas supplies from Russia, Germany’s largest  supplier.

As most observers noted, the US sanction threat was accompanied by the offer of US LNG to Germany and Europe, as a replacement for Russian gas.

No doubt that Trump’s outrageous bullying offended European sensibility, but despite the German protest regarding outside interference in its domestic  economic affairs, and its intention to complete the Russian pipeline, Germany is quietly building up LNG importing facilities, “as a gesture to American friends.”

Most energy experts agree that it is inevitable that US LNG will eventually become a component of European markets, despite its significantly higher price to Russian and Norwegian gas, if for no other reasons to keep the peace with America, Europe’s largest ally, and assure Europe’s access to the US market.

This will also serve to assuage the US complaints about unfair trade.  It matters little that the US trade deficit with Germany centers on its auto industry rather than energy, if the sale of natural gas serves to reduce the US trade deficit.

The same could be said about the US/China trade deficit. China, the largest energy consumer, is the one country where solutions to the trade deficit is clearly at hand, involving increased US LNG imports. China already has a longterm, 20 year deal to import LNG from the leading US LNG company, Cheniere Energy.

China could easily reduce the amount of gas imports from variety of other suppliers (i.e., Qatar, Australia, New Guinea, Iran, Russia) and replace these with US supplies. That would be a near costless transaction for China, as it is already paying other producers for natural gas and LNG supplies.

Consider the effects of a possible LNG deal could have on the trade dispute.  In terms of the current deficit, China sales to the US is estimated at around $350 billion, while US sales to the China is around $150 billion.

Last May, the China signed a  $25 billion deal for   importing US LNG. If we assumed that in current negotiations the two countries could strike a modest deal for another $25 billion in annual US LNG sales to China, US sales to China increases to $200 billion, reducing China’s surplus to $300 billion.

If that were to take place, the trade deficit would reduced to around $100 billion, and Trump would no doubt return to the election campaign trail to boast of the first US trade victory over China.

The risk to this scenario is the presumption that everyone involved really wants a solution to the trade dispute, but there is widespread suspicions that US tariffs on China may be less about fair trade and more about economic warfare to contain China’s growth.

George Friedman’s “Geopolitical Futures” recently noted that  “The U.S. is beginning to see it [tariffs] more as a strategic opportunity to contain Chinese assertiveness than as a play to invigorate U.S. manufacturing.”

There remains a stalwart band of left wing journalists, led by the ever brilliant, Pepe Escobar, who maintain that Europe, Russia, China, and Iran will band together to thwart US sanctions on Iran, and that ‘Iran’s oil sales will be totally unaffected. They also hold strongly to the opinion that China will not yield to US threats and ultimatum.

This despite the fact that major energy companies, like Royal Dutch Shell and Total have already fled Iran in fear of US sanctions, while major countries are severely cutting Iran imports.

Currently, Japan and India have agreed to major reductions of energy imports from Iran.  Recent news  has it that Sinopec, China’s largest oil and gas refiner, under threats of US sanctions, also agreed to severely cut imports from Iran.  It’s no secret that nearly all of Iran’s competitors, it’s OPEC ‘partners’, will go after those under supplied markets, as will the US.

Sanctions against Iran will certainly reduce its exports substantially, with the worst case estimates of a loss to the markets of 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. This will also open opportunities in under supplied  markets that will almost certainly be exploited by US and other competitors.

Some observers believe that because the upcoming election is uppermost in the minds of both US political parties, a trade victory with China is extremely important  to the Republican election campaign. If so, their thinking goes, a deal will result in easing tariffs with China by November.

Trump himself recently stated that he’s ready to talk trade with China, but continues to add the qualifier, “not now.” Many Trump watchers interpret this to mean that getting tough with China’ plays well to Trump’s base, boosts the Republican election prospects, and afterwards a trade deal is likely to be struck.

Any trade deal with China could also be used by the US as a template for deals with Japan, India, and South Korea, the next largest Asian importers  of natural gas. It can hardly be coincidence that, as in Europe, these energy importing countries are threatened by US tariffs over unfair trade.

However, Geopolitical Futures states that “the broad impression in China appears to be that Trump isn’t actually interested in a deal – certainly not one that China could accept – and that this is just the first major salvo in an emerging Cold War and that instead … the world needs to get ready for a new cold war with China.

In a recent speech, Richard Haas, President of New York-based think tank, Council on Foreign Relations, stated that “…the Trump administration initially focused just on trade, “but now it’s broadening, and it almost seems as if the administration wants to have something of a cold war with China.”

What about Venezuela, a country estimated to have the largest oil reserves in the world, also laboring under US sanctions? It’s also a country about which the Administration has made no secret of its plans for a possible US military invasion to topple the Maduro government.

Why go public with that story now, with only a little more than a month towards US Congressional elections?

There is widespread speculation that this announcement may be a trial ballon, as part of the preparation for laying the ground work for an invasion aimed at bolstering Republican election prospects. To date, there has been no sign of opposition to these threats from Democrats.

Conclusion:

It’s no accident that sanctions are aimed at the US largest energy competitors, Russia and Iran, nor is it coincidence that the largest energy importers, Europe, China, Japan, and South Korea are also under threat of US tariffs or sanctions.

Instead, it clearly shows that the US is using the threat of economic warfare and possible military conflict as leverage to open markets to the newest player on the world’s energy market, American LNG.

If the US is successful in these deals, it’s likely that in future, there will be a parallel attempts to make inroads for US crude export to the very same oil importing countries, relying upon the very same LNG game plan.

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BerkeMichaelTheCelotajsHerbert DorseySmokingeagle Recent comment authors
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Sally Snyder
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Sally Snyder

As shown in this letter, America’s largest retailer has publicly admitted that consumers will be the big losers in Donald Trump’s trade war with China:

https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/10/walmart-winners-and-losers-in-us-china.html

This is yet another example of unintended consequences of a poorly executed government mandate.

TheCelotajs
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TheCelotajs

When one has no knowledge or experience in foreign trade this is what one gets when he has people around him that have their own agenda and this is what I see happening today. Trump is President in name only other wise he is being lead around by his nose by others.

Jane Karlsson
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Jane Karlsson

This is all going to backfire when US shale gas starts to run out, which may happen a lot sooner than Mr Berke thinks.

http://www.artberman.com/permian-reserves-may-much-smaller-think/

Jane Karlsson
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Jane Karlsson

Exxon thinks climate change is a hoax, does it. Well perhaps it has a point.

“Just ahead of a new report from the IPCC, dubbed SR#15 about to be released today, we have this bombshell- a detailed audit shows the surface temperature data is unfit for purpose. The first ever audit of the world’s most important temperature data set (HadCRUT4) has found it to be so riddled with errors and “freakishly improbable data” that it is effectively useless.”

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/10/11/bombshell-audit-of-global-warming-data-finds-it-riddled-with-errors/

Also see https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-enron-wants-global-warming

and https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/09/22/study-tropical-hotspot-fingerprint-of-global-warming-doesnt-exist-in-the-real-world-data/

Smokingeagle
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Smokingeagle

Exxon thinks climate change is a hoax, does it? Has it changed its mind since the 1980s? Check out this article dated 18/09/2018: Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings: Newly found documents from the 1980s show that fossil fuel companies privately predicted the global damage that would be caused by their products. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/sep/19/shell-and-exxons-secret-1980s-climate-change-warnings In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560… Read more »

Jonathan Bethune
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Jonathan Bethune

There trying to spur growth by expanding there capacities toward self reliance. There is a new tax framework In place now that has lowered the corporate tax and raised the base wages of Americans to spur the consumption required to grow the new base of American business. I think there seeking a new equilibrium to replace the old given the new geopolitical framework that has emerged in the last ten years. I’m hoping they will stop when they have achieved the new balance and we all move forward in our own domains. Greed as always being the bogeyman of the… Read more »

Herbert Dorsey
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Herbert Dorsey

While Trumpo’s policies might help the U.S. Energy companies, they also hasten the eventual destruction of our planet via increased pollution. People who still deny global warming have their head’s buried in the sand. Scientific data shows that the ocean tempratures are on the increase and that leads to much stronger and more frequent hurricanes. The destruction caused by these hurricanes is much more expensive than the profit benefits to oil corporations incurred by increased air pollution with greenhouse gasses.

TheCelotajs
Guest
TheCelotajs

In other words it is Trump’s Energy or NO ENERY AT ALL since Trump has become the top promoter for increasing exports of US Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to world markets or to put it into simpler terms, US LNG or we will put sanctions on you until you are forced to buy only US LNG!

Michael
Guest
Michael

Berke by name Berke by nature. Lot of wishful thinking here. By the way CO2 does NOT drive climate. We are entering a solar minimum that has at a minimum 30-40 years to run.

Berke
Guest
Berke

You keep getting your information from the pizza delivery boy instead of the scientist like those who just won a Noble Prize for studies on climate change.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

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Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

The Duran

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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