"Unlimited economic egoism" leads to endless conflicts, trade wars, and other types of confrontation that negatively affect global trade, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his address at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on 7 June.
"Countries that used to preach free trade with fair and open competition now use the language of trade war and sanctions; they use blatant economic raiding, intimidation, and any non-market methods to eliminate competition", Putin said.
Commenting further on the topic, Putin indicated that international trade levels have not recovered after the 2008 economic crisis and are not growing as expected, amid ongoing trade wars and emerging trends for both "open and hidden protectionism". Global trade no longer serves as a key driving force for the global economy, the Russian president added.
The US engaged in several tariff wars last year, with the most significant ones involving the European Union and China. Washington insists that Brussels and Beijing have abused their favourable trade relations with the US and is now demanding that new "fair" trade deals be reached. The trade wars have already resulted in billions of dollars’ worth of goods having 20% tariffs or higher slapped on them, curbing trade volumes.
"Dollar as Tool of US Global Dominance"
During his SPIEF speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the US for trying to foist their economic dominance on other countries and argued that the global role of the dollar should be reconsidered.
"Having become the global reserve currency, [the US dollar] has today turned into a tool for the issuing country to put pressure on the rest of the world", Putin said.
Russia has previously criticised the US for "abusing" the reserve status of its currency, warning that doing so could backfire. What is more, Russia is one among several states promoting a shift from the dollar to national currencies in bilateral trade. The trend of abandoning the dollar has notably been seen in a recent report on the economies of the BRICS countries, which have reduced the use of the greenback in mutual trade by 20%.
Putin further lambasted the US for extending its jurisdiction to the entire world, as it is creating multiple threats that could transform the trend towards globalisation "into a parody of itself". He argued that in one scenario, this could lead to a single state or powerful group of states replacing international laws with national ones, forcibly imposing their stipulations on the rest of the world.
"[The other scenario] is a fragmentation of the global economic space, a policy of unhindered economic egoism […] This is a way for endless conflicts and wars, and not necessarily trade ones", the Russian president said.
Signs of 'Technological War'
Commenting on the ongoing trade wars and unfair competition practices in the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin brought up the example of the US crackdown against Huawei. Putin said that Washington is attempting to "unceremoniously" push the Chinese tech giant out of the global market, adding that it could become the "start of a technological war".
The US earlier imposed a ban on selling technologies to Huawei and barring it from American soil under the pretext that the company is helping Beijing's alleged espionage efforts by installing backdoors in its products. Huawei has repeatedly denied these accusations, but the ban has still left it without access to US-made chips and Google's Android operating system.
The Russian president further argued that as part of this new "technological war", some states may try to monopolise technologies. Putin stressed that such an approach could lead to inequality and become a source of instability in the world.
"Essentially, we are seeing attempts to form two worlds with a continually growing divide between them. One of them has access to the most advanced systems of education, healthcare, and modern technologies, whereas the other has no prospects, no chance to even fight poverty, with some [countries] balancing on the brink of survival", he said.
Putin further slammed another example of unfair competition, namely attempts to "torpedo" the Nord Stream 2 project. The Russian president pointed out that the project fully corresponds to the interests of all its participants, as it ensures both European energy security and the creation of additional jobs within the EU. He added that Russian pipeline gas will always be cheaper than liquefied natural gas (LNG) coming "from the other side of the ocean".
Putin also explained that those who oppose the pipeline project have become accustomed to the "permissiveness" of the existing global system and to "others paying their bills".
The US has long been pressuring the EU to abandon the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which is expected to boost Russian natural gas deliveries to Europe and ensure the EU's energy security. Washington has offered to sell European states more expensive American LNG instead, while also threatening to impose sanctions on any entity working on Nord Stream 2.
Despite the US’ efforts, EU member states have repeatedly affirmed their participation in the pipeline's construction and defended the project as economically vital for the bloc.