BAKU, AZERBAIJAN, Oct 25 — While the threat of war still looms despite the end of Cold War, trade disputes which are fast turning into trade wars are causing havoc on the world’s economies, said Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said the uncertainties they caused have led to nations becoming unable to plan and develop their countries, impoverishing their peoples and causing social disorders that are capable of giving rise to civil strife, insurgencies and conflicts.
“The trade wars are proving to be equally damaging and devastating, and using trade as a weapon today is an insidious way of choking nations out of their lives,” he said when addressing the 18th Summit of the State and Government of Non Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit here today.
Dr Mahathir, who last spoke at a NAM Summit 16 years ago when Malaysia hosted it in Kuala Lumpur, said the increasingly damaging and protracted US-China trade dispute has left Malaysia and other nations wondering when will it end and what kind of devastations will be left in its wake.
A trade war between the world’s largest economies, he said, is bound to fracture the world trading system.
“Businesses need to plan smoothly and avoid disruption. But tariffs, counter-tariffs and other impediments to free trade may now become the ‘new normal’,” he said.
Pointing to the ongoing US-China mega-trade war, Dr Mahathir said it may be a symptom of something far worse: growing rivalry between the world’s two biggest powers, lasting indefinitely.
“Unfortunately, for Malaysia, we are caught in the middle as the country economically is linked to both markets, and physically are also caught in between because of its geographical location,” he added.
Speaking on the topic of “Upholding the Bandung Principles to Ensure Concerted and Adequate Response to the Challenges of the Contemporary World”, Dr Mahathir said going to war is not the only solution to settling disputes.
“Back in 2003, I said, ‘The world lives in fear’. It was said at a time when the statement ‘you’re either with us or against us’ became a catch phrase to bully small and peaceful nations into supporting and justifying military actions against another country alleging that it is a threat to the rest of the world. It was said just a few weeks before Iraq was invaded,” said the world’s oldest leader.
In fact, he said, disputing parties can resort to negotiation or submitting to arbitration by third parties, such as the World Court and the International Court of Justice.
“And we say this because Malaysia does not just talk; we do. We settle disputes with our neighbours through negotiations and through the World Court. We won some and we lost some. But no one has been killed,” he said.
Dr Mahathir also told the summit that he noticed the Movement, which has 120 member countries and accounts for 55 per cent of the world’s population, has changed and is not as united as it used to be.
Urging members to stay united, he said NAM should not give in to the powerful countries and give them the satisfaction of seeing it divided.
“In the dangerous world we currently live in, we must defend and champion the 10 principles of the 1955 Bandung Conference. But we must do this together. Only then can we continue to revive the Movement towards meeting its objectives,” he said.