By Alan Collins Mpewo
Since the days of past, there has been shifts in the wheels of world influence. Political history has a great deal of documentation on that subject, on the people that dominated the lands from the far East where the sun rises, to the furthest points where it sets. To-date, the concept is still a complicated phenomenon to unmask and understand all that lies misunderstood and/or unknown. World Super Power status – its benefits (now and beyond) are well established and linger in many people’s minds. No doubts about that. Superiority comes in different forms; military might, economic superiority, ideological edge, and other forms, simple and complex alike. Societies in their organisations are tasked to overcome or embrace the power struggles that come at them, but while at it, the weak always stand on high alert in the shifts of the power wheel.
Equally, presently, there is such struggles like in the noted days of past. The notable West and
East settlers are always to be seen unstable due to the cunning acts of each other, but luckily, the world keeps watch. This guides in making personal opinions on when mishaps arise. This article, is that kind of opinion.
Rhetorically, while some notable world superpowers claim checking on the offending nations,
who checks on those superpowers when they go rogue?! International Law was borne out of the excesses of the world inhabitants to establish a neutral system of checks and balances to ensure civility in international relations. The equilibrium has often had its challenges most of which could have been avoided if only the orchestrators objectively pondered on them and took count of the regrettable consequences similar actions have created. With such fairly modest introduction, there’s a glaring discussion that many are yet to realize. United States of America’s so-called long arm jurisdiction! In the most precise definition, is the exercise of judicial power by domestic courts of judicature, over defendants or accused persons outside that country or jurisdiction. This can be premised on an existent law or by court’s own motion while exercising its “inherent powers.” The judgement passed thereafter will have a binding effect as though the condemned was a national of that country.
While other countries have since conception of the International Law ideals adopted the
extradition concept, USA has been at the forefront of championing and in equal measure
exercised wanton authority over other independent nations, in the context of the juridical realm. A crisis has been sparked as a consequence and it’s sucking the foundations of international law. The USA, a forefront runner on rule of law domestically and otherwise, has mastered the art of elite punching down on numerous countries, economically, politically, and as earlier noted judicially. Sanctions don’t have a better alternative tag than the USA, but at the center of the complexity, while one arm is raised in symbol of territorial respect, another pens unfortunate statutes.
The long arm jurisdiction has a significant track with a wide range of statutes as the years faded and gave way for new ones, such as Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Trading with the Enemy Act, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, National Defense Authorization Act, and many more alike, all having long-arm jurisdiction clauses. In the same spirit, presidential executive orders with similar clauses have become ordinary practice from the country that dares to scold her global sisters when they threaten the sovereignty of others. The tentacles of USA’s long-arm jurisdiction have reached China, Japan, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, Zimbabwe, Iran, among many more. To tabulate a list of all those that have come off as victims would preempt the limited space for more thoughts. Sadly, the in almost all cases, the effects of America’s long-arm jurisdiction have crippled victim countries capacities to protect and serve their citizens causing untold suffering and death at times. For example, U.S based Brooking Institute estimated that more than 13,000 Iranians died of Covid19 in Iran alone which as a result of U.S’ sanctions under long arm jurisdiction!
This article in the commencement kick-started with a rhetorical question, who checks on the
USA?! Who stands to sanction it? To issue guidelines and directions on how to run its internal
processes of governance? How many countries issue statutes in exercise of the long-arm
jurisdiction over its nationals? For all excesses, should come checks. The equilibrium should be found in rethinking and embracing decades of tested principles such as mutual respect for all global players as China earlier realized. There’s enough room for all that tread this rocky planet without unnecessary stir of antagonisms. It goes without a doubt that global policing has its undebatable advantages, but that should be done alive to the realities that have been key at pacing steadfast global relations.
About 78 years after the decision in International Shoe Co. v. Washington by the US Supreme
Court, with the constant reforms since then, it should have been noticeable of the dangers of the long-arm jurisdiction principle by its proponents. The hegemony by USA has maintained a reputation of disregard of territorial observance and respect. As time grows, there could be more backlash than is being witnessed in recent times. Otherwise, with decades of stifling trades that side with the US, alliances that don't lean towards US’s directions, and lack of impartiality while acting as a global police, have reached a prime for disregard by other global actors. The U.S should be reminded that in modern era, unilateralism is the best form of dictatorship and goes against principles of democracy. Put differently, it is a disguised form of colonialism and promotes unfairness and protectionism.
Indeed, a 2022 study by U.S based CATO Institute concluded that, Trump administration used long-arm jurisdiction’s section 301 to unfairly target China with trade tariffs. CATO institute further revealed that section 301 the U.S uses to target foreign companies is unfair stressing that it “grants the executive branch far too much discretion in defining an actionable foreign trade practice” leaving possibility of being exploited for political reasons since it gives the President of the U.S to safeguard what Washington may consider America’s trade interests by remedying any “act, policy, or practice of a foreign country [that] is unreasonable or discriminatory and burdens or restricts United States commerce.” For example, long-arm jurisdiction defines “unreasonable” in a skewed manner calling it “otherwise unfair and inequitable.” This gives the U.S and particularly the President unchecked power when dealing with foreign countries Washington may consider competitors and hence, giving the U.S liberty to block fair competition using their so-called long-arm jurisdiction.
Alan Collins Mpewo is a Senior Research Fellow, Development Watch Centre.