m The British think tank Chatham House has identified 14 bottlenecks spread across the planet. By themselves, they see 55% of world trade pass and their role continues to increase: 15 years ago, it was 43%. The two main ones are the Suez and Panama canals (in Central America). 12% of traffic goes through Suez. 10% by Panama. In both cases, traffic increased with the widening of the canal, in 2015 for Suez, in 2016 for Panama, which sees 40 buildings per day, and ¼ of the world soybean trade. Many of the planet’s other bottlenecks are also maritime: the Strait of Malacca in South Asia, which sees 18% of world grain traffic pass, the Channel between Dover and Calais, Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco , the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles in Turkey, the Strait of Hormuz off Iran essential for oil, and the Strait of Bab Al Mandab between Yemen in the Persian Gulf and Ethiopia in Africa. There are also a few key axes inland: the Mississippi River in the United States, internal roads in Brazil, Russian rail lines to the Black Sea. All of this forms a fascinating map of the hubs of world trade.
It also means that we are very dependent on these 14 crossroads, and that presents a risk. This is what the Chatham House Institute writes. There are several concerns. The first is the aging of infrastructure in some of these key areas. This is true for the banks of the Mississippi, for the railway structures in Russia, and for the roads in the interior of Brazil: they are asphalted only for 12% of them. The second and most worrying problem is the impact of global warming. Especially in maritime areas. Severe weather phenomena are increasing in number. And they can block these trading nodes. In this case, the container ship Evergreen was offset across the canal by a sandstorm and high winds. Another effect of climate change: rising sea levels can flood certain port facilities and ultimately prevent certain ships from passing under bridges, for example in the Bosporus in Turkey. There are also indirect risks: global warming causes droughts, and can therefore cause political unrest in a chain, which one day can affect these facilities. We think of terrorism.
So we have to protect these trade nodes and the logic is international cooperation to improve the security of these 14 key places of trade. Since everyone has an interest in it. In this case, for example, more than 200 ships are already stranded by the interruption of traffic in the Suez Canal. And it is crippling for Europe as for Asia. Oil, grain, semiconductors, everything is delayed. Except that this international cooperation does not take place. Because these trade hubs are jealously maintained by the countries where they are located. In the case of Suez for example, the symbolic significance of the canal has been enormous for Egypt since its nationalization by Nasser in 1956. These major global trade hubs are therefore vulnerable.
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