In case you haven't noticed, something is definitely "up" in the world of finance. Recently, Germany has announced a need and intention to get out from under the American-controlled financial clearing system of SWIFT.More recently, as I blogged about earlier, the French Defense Minister has accused Russia of attempting to tap into a Franco-Italian military satellite. French president Macron followed this up with a statement that France is and intends to remain a "Space power" and intends to "tap into" all the resources out there.
In other words, if one reads this from a financial context, it means Europe is getting deadly serious about building out its own financial clearing systems.
But SWIFT and the American dominance thereof is not the only payments system that Europe is concerned about. According to this article shared by Mr. G.K., the European Central Bank is now taking aim at other international payments systems,"private", payments systems:
It's worth noting what the Sputnik article quotes:
In his speech entitled, "Strengthening the European financial industry amid disruptive global challenges," Mersch heavily criticized European dependence on foreign payment technologies. He began his address by stating that the European Union still faced significant challenges in financial technologies (Fintech), citing the blocs "continued weak performance, with low price-to-book ratios and meagre profitability" as evidence.
"PayPal now dominates the market for online payments in Europe, using the pan-European SEPA credit transfer and SEPA direct debit schemes to provide harmonised services," Yves lamented. "Meanwhile, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon — often referred to collectively as "GAFA" — are also offering significant payment services with pan-European reach, some of which involve joint ventures with individual banks at national level," he noted in his address.
European leaders have become worried about US companies committing financial misdeeds on their soil after French president Emmanuel Macron lambasted GAFA multinationals for not paying their share of taxes in Europe. "They ask the sectors they disrupt to pay, because these guys, the old sectors pay VAT, corporate taxes and so on. That's not sustainable," Macron said in an interview.
EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager also hit back at American information monolith Google, slapping the company with a $3 billion fine for unfairly deranking European online shopping platforms via its search engine. The company faces two similar EU anti-competition lawsuits.
So there it is: the bottom line is money and taxes, and Europe wants more from these private payments systems.
That's a good explanation as far as it goes, but as one might suspect, I have some high octane speculation to advance in the matter. I strongly suspect that while this is the obvious reason, there are some unstated reasons that Europe is going after Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, for those four in particular have some unusual connections. It's almost an article of faith that Google, Facebook and Amazon have ties to the American Central Intelligence Agency, and hence, those systems are, from the European point of view, a security issue, a data collection octopus harvesting data from Europe. Apple, like most silicon valley corporations, has benefited from a long history of hidden subsidies from the US government. More importantly, all these systems are also dollar based, which adds more layers of redundancy into the maintenance of the reserve currency status of the dollar. By going after them, and even raising the issue of creating corporate payment systems that are "European," Europe is signaling that, in the long run, it intends to dismantle its reliance on American payments systems piece by piece.
If there's any doubt as to European intentions, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, spelled it out clearly in this article shared by Ms. K.M.
The first paragraph in this article says it all:
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced that his country will unveil Berlin’s new approach shortly but said that it would be “balanced” and seek to “strengthen the autonomy and sovereignty of Europe in trade, economic and financial policies” out of concern that the Trump Administration’s sanctions policies are endangering the country’s interests with its Russian, Chinese, and Turkish partners. He also published an article last week where he said that the EU will consider creating an independent payment system for evading the US’ unilateral economic restrictions, which would in practice greatly contribute to de-dollarization if it was successfully achieved. It might appear as though Germany is preparing to bravely defy the US and take a principled stand for multipolarity, but the reality is a lot more nuanced. (Emphasis added)
The key here is space: it will have to expand its satellite communications systems dramatically (think Luxembourg here, folks). This won't happen overnight, but in the meantime, one can expect more regulatory pressure, and more lawsuits, on those companies.
See you on the flip side...
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