Your supermarket sandwich could soon have a calorie cap, under new proposals

THESTAR: However, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) has argued that “education rather than banning” should be the aim of reducing the obesity crisis.

Commenting on the proposals, Bill Wirtz, Policy Analyst for the CCC said: “The intentions of PHE are understandable, but rectifying the bad nutritional habits and lack of exercise of some with outright bans for others is just blatantly unfair.

“Nobody is denying that we could all lose weight by only living on water and crispbread, but being a free society means being able to enjoy a pizza, a burger or an ice-cream when you like. Educating rather than banning should be our aim.

Wirtz added: “Ultimately it’s the government that needs to make the decisions regarding these proposed bans on food items. Even a simple execution of PHE’s recommendations would be a clear message that this government does not believe in informed and responsible consumers.”

READ MORE
mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

The fallacy of the meat tax

Bill Wirtz examines the shortcomings of the proposed tax on red meat.

In a recent publication for the University of Oxford, Dr. Marco Springmann and James Martin, both Fellows at the Oxford Martin School argue for the introduction of additional taxes on red meat. Springmann makes the case that taxing products such as bacon could save thousands of lives every year, due to the meat’s association with higher chances heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

Most striking is the regressiveness of a meat tax. All too often, the people suggesting these taxes are not the ones most affected by them. Even if a red meat tax were introduced, “public health advocates” could still afford as much meat as they choose to pay for. That is not the case for the poorest in society. Like for any other consumption tax, it’s the poorest who are most affected by the measure compared to higher earners. Unless we are sympathetic to the idea that the poor should be more overprotected than those that high-income earners, a meat tax would be socially unjust.

It’s saddening that in a world where paternalism is taking over, there is a need to defend one thing: consumers should be allowed to enjoy themselves. Yes, they should be made aware of the health risks associated with their lifestyles, but ultimately it should be up to the individual to choose for themselves what they want to eat. If not, then it won’t end there: once consumers give up red meat, proponents of the Nanny State will just find a new angle through which they trample upon enjoyment. At least today, if you’re looking to live to 120 and be boring, you can do it without impeding on the free choices of others.

But we should not only quarrel with the principle, but also with the statistics.

The essential claim is that processed meat is a danger to public health, as it is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The “associated with” are quite the important key words here, especially since they are being repeated so often. Everything you consume is essentially carcinogenic, and can therefore be linked to different cancers. The question is how dangerous it is exactly. The study Springmann bases his claims on is a 2011 meta-analysis from the Paris Institute of Technology for Life, Food and Environmental Sciences, which says this:

“The preventability of colorectal cancer in theUnited Kingdom through reduced consumption of red meat, increased fruit and vegetables, increased physical activity, limited alcohol consumption and weight control was estimated to be 31.5 per cent of colorectal cancer in men and 18.4 per cent in women.”

You may have noticed here that reducing red meat consumption is just one out of five key characteristics that people would have to follow in order to cut down their risk of colorectal cancer by up to a third (for men). If you narrow it down only to red meat consumption, you find a possible risk reduction in the UK of five per cent, provided the person was eating more than 80g of red meat per day. So yes, certain people can reduce their risk of certain cancersto a certain degree if they limit their consumption of red meat.

However, this is only true if people reduce their consumption of red meat without offsetting it with any other consumption.

It seems that there is an unfortunate disinterest of public health advocates for the occurrence of unintended consequences. If you limit access to one product, people are likely to find alternative routes to consume that product elsewhere. Take the example of Denmark’s fat tax, introduced in the same year that the Paris meta-analysis was published. In October 2011, Denmark’s leading coalition introduced a tax on fattening foods and beverages, such as butter, milk, cheese, meat, pizza, and oil, as long as they contain more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat. After fifteen months, the same parliamentary majority repealed the tax, as the Danes recognised the measure to be a failure.

Still, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that in the months during the implemented tax, the sale of these foods fell by between 10 and 15 per cent. But, this does not account for the stockpiling or hoarding effect that the Danes experienced prior to the introduction of the tax: in fact, when analysing the effects over the 15 months during which the tax was in effect in Denmark, we saw a marginal drop of 0.9 per cent in consumption of fatty foods and beverages, which lies within the margin of error.

What exactly British consumers will do when presented with a massive tax hike on red meat is hard to tell at this point, but it certainly isn’t as clear-cut as public health advocates would like it to appear. The fact that they don’t account for possible unintended consequences shows more of an activist behaviour than one of scientific research.

Originally published at http://commentcentral.co.uk/the-fallacy-of-the-meat-tax/

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Huge disparities in European breast cancer care shown by new index

With nearly 100,000 women lose their life to breast cancer every year in the European Union it is the most lethal cancer diagnosis for women in the EU.

And while health systems of the 28 different Member States have made progresses in providing better care, chances of early diagnosis and state of the art treatment depends heavily on where a patient lives.

The recently launched Breast Cancer Index illustrates very well on disparities in breast cancer care across the continent. While Northern European countries rank usually in the top 20% of this index, Eastern and Southern Europe’s health systems seem to provide less advanced care in the field of breast cancer.

All of the three Benelux countries can be found in the top six of this index including all 28 EU Member States. Sweden, Austria, and Germany are the other three countries in the top six. These are followed by the other two northern EU Members Finland and Denmark.

And Italy’s very heterogeneous health system lands a 9th rank in this new index, treatment outcomes vary a lot depending on which part of Italy a patient seeks care. Traditionally the health system of for instance the region of Lombardia is worlds apart from care infrastructure in the south of Italy. And while France’s health system is often ranked best globally by the World Health Organization it merely makes it on the 10th spot in this EU ranking.

Greece, Croatia, Latvia, and Hungary mark the last five ranks of the index and illustrate the strong North/West to South/East divide of breast cancer care in the EU. The index’ methodology focuses on indicators such access to screening, preventive measures, palliative care offers, medical specialists, outcomes like survival rates, the quality of cancer registries, and the populations’ lifestyle.

Looking at the top-ranked countries one can conclude that health systems which allow competition between providers both inpatient and outpatient seem to have a higher standard of breast cancer care.


  • Breast Cancer Index 2018

Sweden’s successful tobacco harm reduction strategies have not only lead to by far the lowest smoking rates in the EU but also helped to get to the top of this ranking. And while the UK’s (acknowledging that is has several regional systems) centralized NHS is successful in maintaining high quality registries it falls short in focusing on individual cases and offering speedy treatments. 

Most Central & Eastern European countries saw economic growth over 3% in the last couple of years and while this also resulted in higher absolute healthcare spending it did not necessarily outpace the general GDP growth which would be necessary in order to bridge the gap in care compared to the ranking’s front runners.

The access to innovative medicine and government’s willingness to cover innovative medicine or at least allow private funding mechanism is not looked at by this index. If one would look at the time lags between the introduction and reimbursement of lifesaving innovative medicines in some of the index’ front runners and its poorest performers it is likely to assume that these results would correlate with most of what the index already shows.

This should put policymakers in the second half of the index’ ranks into a position to ask themselves how to tackle this massive problem of deficiencies in breast cancer care. At times of government austerity and debt crises in the Mediterranean one proven policy option would be to allow public private partnerships or fully private solutions that enable patients to purchase a top up coverage closing the gap between their home country’s level of care and what’s recommended by European guidelines.

Portugal has been experimenting with such new models that allow a better access to innovative medicines in care care. And while the country ranks 23rd on the overall index it is at a respectable 6th place when solely looking at outcomes and survival rates.

Policy innovations and more involvement of the private sector in improving care and funding of care are needed in order to successfully combat the notion that cancer equals a death diagnosis.

Originally published at https://www.vocaleurope.eu/huge-disparities-in-european-breast-cancer-care-shown-by-new-index/

mm

About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Going for a run is better than feel-good “junk food” bans

On November 23, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that, as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates, but it is set to do nothing of the sort.

The city mayor has taken the example of Amsterdam, which introduced a similar ban last year, and which has seen significant reductions in childhood obesity in the past. However, associating those reductions with the metro ad ban is intellectually dishonest: for one thing, the ban only came into force in January this year, but the claims for significant reductions in childhood obesity are made for periods preceding the ban. In fact, the city of Amsterdam was already showing off with a 16 per cent reduction between 2012 and 2015. Back then, it boasted the advantages of the “Healthy Weight Campaign” by talking about raising awareness of parents, and investing into education regarding physical activity.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade.

So the problem isn’t that children eat too much, but that they move too little. When public health advocates use Amsterdam as an example, they act in bad faith.

But the advertising ban reveals more than just a disinterest in the facts, it is also a display of blatant distrust towards consumers. In essence, the message is: consumers don’t have free will, and are subjugated to advertising. Very few people will find this to be true. We see thousands of ads every year, of products that we’ll never buy. London City basically tells us that we’re mindless consumers, and not responsible individuals. If Sadiq Khan, buys his shampoos on impulse after passing Waterloo station, that’s his problem, not ours.

Advertising establishes brand recognition, and thereby consumer loyalty. There might be a lot of ads, yet the argument that it is oppressive reaches too far. Those billboards in the Tube, or at bus stations also aren’t targeted at children anyways, since most consumers using these services are adults. The city uses the iconic “think of the children” argument to ruin the fun for everyone else. A bulletproof case, since anyone who opposes the ban must be against children.

This doesn’t even mention the £25 million/year in lost ad revenue for TfL. Now that the ban also extends to river services, trams, coach stations, taxi and private hire, those losses could be even more considerable.

Meanwhile, there are actual ways of combating childhood obesity. Educators should not only focus on facilitating a workable diet – even though those are important – but also provide parents and schools with the tools to get children interested in sports. Whenever the World Cup is taking place, the number of children wanting to become football champions spikes, and so does the number of football matches popping up on playgrounds around Britain. Maintaining this sort of enthusiasm should be the goal: offering long-term sporty distractions to children is how they burn calories, and how we get those disconcerting obesity numbers down.

Banning ads in the tube is feel-good policy with no actual effects. It’s head-in-the-sand tactics of believing the problem will disappear if we get rid of advertising, when we actually know it won’t.

Let our politicians chew on that.

Originally published at https://www.europeanscientist.com/en/features/going-for-a-run-is-better-than-feel-good-junk-food-bans/

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity

MEDICAL NEWSER: On the November 23rd, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London’s tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates.

The Consumer Choice Center’s London-based Managing Director Fred Roeder said that combating childhood obesity is a noble goal, but trampling on consumer choice and the rights of adult consumers isn’t an appropriate solution.

Even though we all agree that obesity is an important issue, marketing restrictions haven’t proved to be effective in stemming it. In 1980, junk food advertising was outlawed in Quebec and contrary to the expected outcomes, childhood obesity rates went up by 140% in the 15 years following the introduction of the ban.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. We don’t have a junk food problem, but a calorie burning problem. Rather than impose the junk food ban, the mayor should advocate promoting healthy lifestyles that include physical exercise.

To back up the plan, the mayor explained that ‘advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make.’ While it is true that advertisements help distinguish products on the market, governments should preserve consumers’ rights to decide for themselves and avoid legislation that seeks to ban brands. Ultimately, we as a society need to focus on educating and empowering parents to ensure their children make healthy choices.”

READ MORE

mm

About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost.

Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines.

In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market.

Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries.

Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian.

Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Life as a taxpayer: paying to be berated

The EU’s 2018 NGO Health Awards took place this week where the European Commission recognised those NGOs it deems to be the most effective in fighting the use of tobacco. Bill Wirtz watched what he describes as “an insufferable nanny state love-in”, so you don’t have to. 

At the beginning of the EU Health Policy Platform annual meeting, Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, held an energetic speech against the practice of smoking tobacco. He pointed out that he believes the idea that harm-reduction through e-cigarettes, as it is currently practiced in the UK for instance, is nonsense. He doesn’t seem bothered by the facts. Public Health England found as early as 2015 that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than traditional cigarettes. If the Lithuanian Commissioner really wanted to reward those who get people to stop smoking, he’d give the prize to the companies that produce e-cigarettes or heat-not-burn products, both have which have proven to considerably reduce health risks and contribute to smoking cessation.

Instead, three anti-smoking NGOs, subsidised by public money, received the prizes. The third prize went to Youth Network No Excuse Slovenia, a youth organisation dedicated to the cause of fighting tobacco. “No Excuse” prides itself with the fact it “operates independently from private financiers”, meaning it is entirely funded by taxpayers’ money.

“No Excuse Slovenia” received £71,000 from the Slovenian government in the last three years. It is also hiring people with money from both the European Union’s Social Fund and the Slovenian government. “No Excuse Activists”, an associate program run by the same people, received £592,000 in the last ten years. The organisation is a member of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), which for the last three years has cashed in £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money through EU funds. The EPHA calls for higher taxes on tobacco products or for even larger health warnings . These are things that the EU could perfectly well argue independently, but it instead chooses to give your money to NGOs who then lobby Brussels which results in everyone having to pay more tax.

The second place went to Education Against Tobacco (EAT), a group of medical students actively promoting tobacco cessation to students. EAT’s website doesn’t ask for donations and doesn’t present any financial statements, which is why it’s safe to assume that the group is funded by university grants.

Lastly, the winner of the EU health award is the Irish Cancer Society (ICS). The ICS prides itself on being an organisation that operates independently of the Irish government, but is quick to admit that it does cooperate with it, i.e. it receives grants to run things like smoking cessation hotlines. If you think that that is trivial, look at it this way: if the Prime Minister publicly claimed that he did not receive money from Coca-Cola, and then went on to say that the Coca-Cola Company only funds specific expenses, such as her holidays, we’d probably still have some questions. Any accountant will tell you that funds are fungible.

The problem isn’t that people advocate against smoking tobacco. That is their prerogative, just as much as people can argue against the consumption of alcohol. After all, alcohol, as opposed to tobacco, can lead to car accidents, public nuisance, physical altercations, or domestic violence. Tobacco is the thin end of the wedge. On the day that the last person lays down their cigarette, the same activists will come for your whisky, wine, and beer. When looking at public health policies, we see that that is already largely the case. What will be next: an 80 per cent tax on beer, a ban on drinking in pubs? After all, I could give you a long list of avoidable consequences if those measures were introduced.

The problem is, however, that taxpayers’ money is wasted on activists who say exactly what the government wants them to say. There’s is a fundamental dishonesty in what the government does: instead of making a political declaration, writing it in the manifesto, and standing for election with the promises in it, politicians now choose to avoid these issues completely in the times of election, and instead fund “non-governmental organisations” that get their funding from the government, who then give their “expertise” in committee hearings. Instead of standing their ground, politicians hide behind an army of anti-choice lobbyists working for the same government they try to influence. In political jargon you’d call it: civil society representatives providing insights and perspectives to elected officials for the purpose of informed policy-making.

All that is then rounded up with ceremonial award procedure and a cocktail lunch you paid for. But don’t worry, you can still watch the live stream.

Originally published at http://commentcentral.co.uk/life-as-a-taxpayer-paying-to-be-berated/

mm

About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity

MEDICINE NEWS LINE: On the November 23rd, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London’s tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates.

The Consumer Choice Center’s London-based Managing Director Fred Roeder said that combating childhood obesity is a noble goal, but trampling on consumer choice and the rights of adult consumers isn’t an appropriate solution.

Even though we all agree that obesity is an important issue, marketing restrictions haven’t proved to be effective in stemming it. In 1980, junk food advertising was outlawed in Quebec and contrary to the expected outcomes, childhood obesity rates went up by 140% in the 15 years following the introduction of the ban.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. We don’t have a junk food problem, but a calorie burning problem. Rather than impose the junk food ban, the mayor should advocate promoting healthy lifestyles that include physical exercise.

To back up the plan, the mayor explained that ‘advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make.’ While it is true that advertisements help distinguish products on the market, governments should preserve consumers’ rights to decide for themselves and avoid legislation that seeks to ban brands. Ultimately, we as a society need to focus on educating and empowering parents to ensure their children make healthy choices.”

READ MORE

mm

About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost.

Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines.

In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market.

Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries.

Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian.

Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity

On the November 23rd, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London’s tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates.

The Consumer Choice Center’s London-based Managing Director Fred Roeder said that combating childhood obesity is a noble goal, but trampling on consumer choice and the rights of adult consumers isn’t an appropriate solution.

Even though we all agree that obesity is an important issue, marketing restrictions haven’t proved to be effective in stemming it. In 1980, junk food advertising was outlawed in Quebec and contrary to the expected outcomes, childhood obesity rates went up by 140% in the 15 years following the introduction of the ban.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. We don’t have a junk food problem, but a calorie burning problem. Rather than impose the junk food ban, the mayor should advocate promoting healthy lifestyles that include physical exercise.

To back up the plan, the mayor explained that ‘advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make.’ While it is true that advertisements help distinguish products on the market, governments should preserve consumers’ rights to decide for themselves and avoid legislation that seeks to ban brands. Ultimately, we as a society need to focus on educating and empowering parents to ensure their children make healthy choices.”

READ MORE

mm

About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost.

Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines.

In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market.

Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries.

Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian.

Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Don’t be scared of AI – it’s improving our lives

We’re in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – driverless cars, virtual assistants and the gig economy are only a glimpse of what is still to come. Perhaps unsurprisingly, coverage of technological change is often pessimistic and focused on machines ‘taking our jobs’. And we can indeed already see some areas where this kind of displacement is taking place – in supermarkets, airports and banks – to name a few.

But why are we so afraid of the future? Why is that the talk of the implications of artificial intelligence is about our soon-to-be robot overlords and mass unemployment, instead of the opportunities new technology presents? After all, AI will improve the lives of both consumers and entrepreneurs immeasurably.

The applications of AI are manifold, from managing complex supply chains, to virtual assistants freeing up our time for tasks that require a human touch.  In healthcare we see the Rhodes Artificial Intelligence Lab diagnosing kids with sleep apnea and predicting, and preventing, heart attacks. Engineers, architects and doctors are all delivering more, quicker, thanks to the wonders of modern tech.

With efficiency improvements – and as AI enables more budding tech entrepreneurs to enter into competitive markets – standards are shooting up and prices are going down. A key trend we are seeing as the Fourth Industrial Revolution emerges is the development of tech-enabled platforms that disrupt existing industries, by providing a better, quicker and safer service for less money or less hassle.

The taxi industry is a good example. For all Uber’s perceived faults (read: government’s failure to properly regulate), it has made life safer for revellers, quicker for the businessperson and reduced the hassle for the consumer. Lyft, Uber’s closest competitor, pays its drivers better and typically has lower surge rates. The technological nature of their platforms means that companies like Uber and Lyft can perform where black cabs can’t; they track drivers to improve passenger safety and are accessible from the most remote locations.

You would think that by now we would have learned our lesson from history. We have no idea what new jobs will be created by the next industrial revolution and so we tend to worry about the dangers to society and not embrace the possibilities, but if we can combine the AI revolution with sound and sensible policies which protects the most vulnerable, we have little to worry about and everything to gain.

New industries should have limited, but sensible, regulation to ensure entrepreneurs can make Britain a world leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution while protecting workers. The welfare system will have to adapt to a new world in order to protect the unfortunate, but inevitable, losers of technological innovation. We should start considering a Universal Basic Income as a genuine political necessity and not just a wacky fringe idea, in order to decide how we can make it work.

Big Tech should of course be reminded of its social responsibilities and we should do our best to close tax loopholes, but badly thought-out policies such as the new Digital Services Tax will do nothing but harm small, entrepreneurial firms and help Facebook, Google and Amazon to monopolise. By hurting business we hurt consumers who will inevitably feel the brunt of new corporation taxes which are passed on to the customer and the employee.

In the very-near future, technological innovation will mean a supply-side miracle. Costs of transportation and communication will go through the floor – and the costs of trade will drop. This means cheaper prices, better products and a lower cost of living for you and me, and higher revenue for businesses.

It is time for us to stop thinking of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as robots, big data and zero privacy. Rather, we should think of it in terms of lower costs, easier lives, and a much improved standard of living. I, for one, will welcome our socially responsible, sensibly regulated, robot overlords.

Originally published at https://capx.co/dont-be-scared-of-ai-its-improving-our-lives/

About Matt Gillow

EU duties on goods from Southeast Asia as a Post-Brexit trade opportunity

Where the EU is walking the plank, the UK should be able to recognise and seize post-Brexit opportunities.

On 6 November, the Italian government asked the European Commission to apply the “safeguard clause” on rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar in order to protect Italian rice growers. Protectionist measures against southeast Asian countries are not a novelty and have been vehemently backed up by France, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Hungary and Romania.

The EU ‘safeguard clause’ hurts consumers across the EU bloc

Under the ‘safeguard clause’ enshrined in the Treaty of Rome, when imports from a third country jeopardise the trade balance of an EU Member State, it can ask to ‘remedy the situation’, otherwise to introduce trade barriers.

Such interventions pursue a single aim: to protect a specific group from competition. However, whilst taking the producer side protectionism hurts consumers who are the main beneficiaries of free trade.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the third largest trading partner of the EU. In 2017, co-operation with the ASEAN resulted in the output of more than € 227,3 billion in goods. As part of this economic engagement, the European Union has been actively trading with both Myanmar and Cambodia and therefore using the agricultural imports, in particular rice, to feed up the EU market.

Should the EU choose to act at the whim of Italian rice growers, it will strip consumers all across the bloc of the opportunity to enjoy a great supply of rice and consequently a favourable pricing.

Post-Brexit UK freely trades with Southeast Asia and not only

As of now the UK has a trade deficit with Southeast Asia. In 2016, UK exports in goods and services to Southeast Asia estimated £13.6 billion and UK imports from the region amounted to £18.8 billion.

While it is of no surprise that Singapore as a former UK colony leads the region, Cambodia and Myanmar, which are next in the queue for the EU trade barriers, are important trade partners as well. In 2016, the UK imported £0,9bn in goods and services from Cambodia and £0,2bn from Myanmar.

Even though trade relations between the UK and Southeast Asia countries make up only for a small fraction of a crucially important economic engagement with the EU, they serve as a significant trade field to explore.

Some of potential co-operation channels are bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements between the UK and ASEAN countries. Moreover, once the UK has put the wind back in its sails and left the EU Single Market and the Customs Union, it will also be able to abolish all import tariffs on the goods it doesn’t produce, most of which belong to the agricultural segment, including rice.

Brexit therefore represents a momentous opportunity which has a propensity to change the history of world trade and pivot if away from protectionism. By exiting the EU, the UK is not only saving its consumers from detrimental outcomes of the EU’s protectionism, but also gets a chance to foster its co-operation with Southeast countries and reclaim its heritage as a trading nation.

Originally published at https://www.vocaleurope.eu/eu-duties-on-goods-from-southeast-asia-as-a-post-brexit-trade-opportunity/?fbclid=IwAR2_Z4zLar4ImfsUouDknBAET4Vy7T7Sa-zhikFwG3yXM2xbO1u5bqNBBiY