Trade is indeed profitable; a fact reflected by the great amount of international trade that amounts to a sixth of the world’s economic activity. In addition to being an economic issue, trade is also political since regulations are set through political influence, and businesses cross state-defined borders. The states act in their own best interests. To achieve this, institutions that negotiate complex trade deals have been created. They ensure maximum reciprocal benefits to the participating states. Founded for this purpose is the World Trade Organization (WTO) which stands out as the most important trade institution in the world. Through WTO, the 153 member states negotiate agreements and resolve disputes as regards their implementation. Every member state is equal as the institution operates by consensus (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2011).
Even in such negotiations, international security is given priority. However, each member state tends to act and negotiate in their favor so as to reap maximum benefits from any deal. Such an approach is called Mercantilism. This is where each state tries to protect its own interests, even at the expense of others. It emphasizes the use of economic policy in increasing state power relative to other states. In many ways, it resembles realism. They develop policies that produce a trade surplus for them. Through these policies, they generate money which they use in enhancing state power.
Nevertheless, states try to avoid confrontation or charged conflict by exploring the possibility of co-operation to realize common goals. This approach is called economic liberalism. Western economics revolve around liberalism. Important to note is that even with such an approach and much as involved states may benefit, there is always one that benefits more than the other.
In a word, Liberalism and Mercantilism as ideologies and theories of economics shape state policies. Liberal economics are defined by markets that are shaped by supply and demand, the primary defining factors of any market. International co-operation through worldwide free trade is emphasized to increase wealth creation with relative distribution among states. Success in this kind of economics is largely attributed to comparative advantage that states enjoy by producing different goods, since natural resources and other parameters like labor and technology vary from one country to another. Inasmuch as international trade has been a success, it has been limited by political interference. For instance, use of economic sanctions for political mileage has been a major hurdle. Sanctions are, however, difficult to enforce unless all major economic players agree to abide by them.
Rules and regulations embodied in trade regimes and other areas of international relations become the basis on which permanent trade institutions are founded. These, through their administrative roles, ensure further stability and efficiency in global trade. An example is the WTO that provides a global framework for trade although states still operate fewer than thousands of bilateral trade agreements that specify trade rules between specific countries in specific products (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2011). Also playing a major role in international trade are cartels that are associations of producers or consumers. They set quotas for each country’s production, thereby determining commodity price.
Industries and other interest groups often pressure their governments to adopt free trade policies. This has been majorly successful since global free trade systems in which such industries prosper have been promoted. Industrial policies have been adopted to primarily protect companies. To ensure enforcement of trade rules and avoid violation of agreements and any reciprocity, international economic transactions are monitored by large bureaucracies that develop detailed policies to reciprocate non-co-operation from any state.
There are different types of international conflicts namely: Ethnic, Religious, Ideological, Territorial, Governmental and Economic conflicts. More often than not, these conflicts occur in combination other than separately. They overlap. All of these are over ideas or interests. Intangible elements like ethnic hatred, religious fervor and ideology are the major identity shaped causes of international conflict.
Each is examined and illustrated. To begin with, it is noted that ethnic conflict is perhaps the most significant source of international conflict. An ethnic group is a large group of people sharing ancestral, cultural, and religious or language ties. Ethnic conflict stems from a dislike or feeling of discomfort, even hatred that members of one ethnic group may harbor toward another ethnic group. Such could be caused by historical conflicts over specific boundaries; natural resources; one group’s political domination; or economic exploitation over another. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 is a good example that involved the majority Hutu group and the Tutsi minority. Ethnic Hutu extremists in government gave orders countrywide to kill ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus who had opposed the government. In some instances, ethnic population span international borders and when disputes arise there is pressure to redraw borders. For instance, Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria all oppose the idea of giving up control of their own territory to create a Kurdish state. Rival Kurdish armies even fought in the 1990s (Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2011).
On religious conflicts, it is noted that every community’s value system is founded on religion. In any society, people with different religious practices are disdained easily and treated with disrespect. Religion surfaces as the central and most visible division between groups when overlaid on ethnic and territorial conflicts. Much as members of different religious groups may co-exist peacefully, their religious differences hold the potential to extend to existing conflicts, magnifying them. Islamist groups for instance have cropped up to fight against the US in particular and the West in general. Such include Taliban, Al Shabaab, and Al Qaeda among others. Ideologies have further played a central role in international conflicts. Just like religion, they symbolize and intensify conflicts between groups and states. During the Cold War, the two antagonistic ideologies of Communism and Capitalism put blocks of nations in a colliding course against each other.
Territorial disputes, on the other hand, arise when there’s no agreement on where borders should be drawn or conflict over control of entire existing states. Sometime back, Israel and Egypt had a border dispute at Taba. Also, Russia and the West backed opposing sides in Ukraine during and after a disputed election. Economic conflicts stand out as the most pervasive in international relations certainly because economic transactions are pervasive. A stand-off in this arena can have grave consequences on involved economies or even the life of ordinary citizens. An excellent example of such a conflict would be when. Costa Rica, a major producer and exporter of coffee wants the price of coffee to go up whereas Canada, an importer, wants it down (Goldstein, Xiaoming, & Burou, 1997).
Conclusively, conflicts of whatever nature impact negatively on society. They should be avoided and in instances where that cannot be done, involved parties should move with speed to resolve them.
Goldstein, J. S. & Pevehouse, J. C. (2011). International Relations, (10th Ed.). Publisher: Pearson.
Goldstein, J. S. Xiaoming H, & Burou A. (1997); Energy in the World Economy, 1950-1992. International Studies Quarterly, 41 (2), 241-66