World News


Coronavirus and the Economy. Is Coronavirus a War without an Enemy?

The notion that the consequences of the coronavirus crisis are comparable to those of the First and Second World War is becoming topical. Predictions for the peak number of deaths per nation in the Western Hemisphere could surpass that of the greatest wars in our history, alongside sustaining similar challenges affecting the economy, healthcare systems, and the education sector.

Among the virus’ most pressing consequences is the tragedy of human lives. In a statistical reference, Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency, pointed out that within two months of the medical emergency, Lombardy’s virus victims were five times the civil victims of the bombardments during the five years of the Second World War.

From a political perspective, while the coronavirus emergency is one of a global scale, the sense of weakening governments in the Western Hemisphere is high considering the continuity of many services – which are the responsibilities of the state – including health, education, justice and the free mobility of goods and people has been affected, and in many cases, interrupted.

The need to identify and understand the inner workings of this invisible enemy is necessary to assess the damages or benefits that the crisis poses for different players. On a macrolevel, these players include countries and multinational corporations. On a microlevel, these players constitute small businesses and the individuals themselves.

Calculating damages and benefits and identifying “winners” and “losers” regarding economic consequences are difficult tasks. Winners and losers are easily concluded upon in the case of wars with clear enemies and agendas. Even under war circumstances, one can predict the winners and losers from an economic perspective as successful economies are intimately linked with strong armies who have the ability to take on a magnitude of external forces. In the case of coronavirus, a weaponless war uniting the whole world against a common enemy, players which were most affected by the steel trade war of recent history are now garnering advantages due to their import and export specializations.

From the crash in oil prices quoting below $20.00 per barrel – the lowest mark in eighteen years – and further dropping to negative, China is not only a winner as the main net importer of crude oil, but also as a net importer of natural gas. The savings deriving from such a dramatic crash of oil prices – which is also resulting in a steep reduction of energy prices as a whole – could easily compensate for the disadvantages resulting from the tariffs applied to their exports of steel.

Among oil producers, the fight for market shares is demonstrating that the global health crisis is triggering a classic market war. In the short-term, normally abundant supplies are threatened; oil producers in the United States are to cut production or pay for their products to get market outlets. The case for a long-lasting war for market share among the world-leading oil and gas producers is also probable, as world reserves of fossil fuels may prove abundant in the long-run.

One of the potential tools to help oil and gas producers in the United States amidst the struggle of falling oil prices is the application of tariffs for oil and gas imports. These tariffs are expected to pose a disadvantage for energy consumers, rendering negative effects for the industrial companies. In turn, this process will also garner advantages for those who had been the losers of the steel trade war. Evidently, the players and positions of the steel trade war have drastically changed under the circumstances of the pandemic.

In the case of Tenaris, a global manufacturer and supplier of steel, the oversupply of oil has placed them on the losing end of the spectrum in lieu of the pandemic. The company has seen temporary closures not only in Italy and Argentina, but also in the United States which is one of their more promising markets.

The economic effects of coronavirus are felt on both global and local levels. Despite the lack of a tangible enemy, the world is, in fact, embroiled in war. Winners and losers will emerge which will alter the status quo of successful industries.