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May 02, 2004

MSNBC Flings Mud, Misses

This MSNBC column by Fareed Zakaria got my attention, since it's so obviously a stupid "gotcha! Bush is a hypocrite!" piece. There wasn't much to it except some droning about having "multilateral" trade policies versus "unilateral" foreign policy, but I Fisked it anyway. Feel free to skip this one.

May 10 issue - The Bush administration has a secret multilateral side. Did you know that it routinely allows an international organization to make crucial decisions affecting the lives of all Americans?

Did you know that the US is involved in thousands of international organizations and rule making bodies, but we don't give them veto power over US national security?

That it allows foreigners—unelected bureaucrats in Geneva!—to overrule laws passed by Congress and signed by the president? No, I haven't gone crazy. This is pretty much the approach taken by the administration to the World Trade Organization.

And organization founded in 1948 in Cuba, of all places. One of the reasons it exists is to lower trade barriers so business in general is more efficient. Note that the people who despise it are the WTO protesters, who dress in silly outfits when they're not bashing out shop windows in business districts. Note that the people who push it tend to be US and European business interests.

Last week a WTO panel ruled that U.S. cotton subsidies violated international trade rules. Washington will almost certainly appeal the finding. But if the past is any guide, it will also almost certainly abide by the WTO's final decision. All of which, in my view, is exactly right. The Bush administration has been careful not to undermine the WTO because it understands that if the biggest player on the block doesn't abide by the rules, the entire framework of multilateral trade could be destroyed.

And any of this is news worthy? The WTO doesn't generally play by the rules that we try to avoid, it plays by the rules we want to spread. Things we want to avoid look like the Smoot-Hawley tariff act. Anyone remember the Great Depression? It was bad for business, very very bad.

Even when the administration has pandered to protectionists, it has done so without overturning the rules of the game.

Bush is pandering to Kerry? Who'da thunk it. He did screw up with steel tariffs and such, but Kerry wants to stop "outsourcing" and bring all "those" jobs home.

"I know it's fashionable to condemn the Bush administration on trade. But the truth is that it has been extremely good," says Jagdish Bhagwati, one of the world's most distinguished economists and a fervent free-trader. "It's my party, the Democrats, who are embracing voodoo trade policies," he added ruefully, pointing to a number of John Kerry's campaign proposals.

Thank you Jagdish! Someone certainly needs to slap John Kerry with the term "Voodoo trade policies". Oooo… I wonder if he'll get another Purple Heart from it.

The administration keeps quiet about the reality that trade organizations infringe on a country's sovereignty.

Well what's the point of having a trade agreement on tariffs if all the countries just ignore the agreement? Kind of makes it all moot, or maybe Smoot, doesn't it? Let me skip on down a few paragraphis in this "insightful" analysis.

The threats will only grow stronger because the European Union just got a lot more powerful. Its expansion last week, adding 10 countries, will make it an economic trading zone of 450 million people, 50 percent larger than the North American free-trade area.

Excuse me while I rain some numbers on this blather. First, the population of Europe didn't budge, unless the people in those ten countries that we already were trading with landed from Mars. Second, the population of the US is 290.3 million, Mexico is 104.9 million, and Canada is 32.2 million. Add them up and you get 427.4 million, not the 300 million that is indicated by his "450 million and 50 percent figures". He must've left Mexico and Canada out of NAFTA when he ran his little numbers. You've got to hit the '+' button, not the 'C' button. Isn't it funny how calculators can trip you up like that.

And in this arena Europe has a reasonably unified decision-making process. The trade world is not unipolar, it's bipolar—and the United States might not be the most powerful pole anymore. Washington adheres to trade rules because it wants the 900-pound gorilla to adhere to them as well.

Wrong again oh wonderous pundit. The trade world is multipolar. Only the most egregious Eurocentrist would ever describe it as bipolar. He must be channeling those grandiose French visions of adequacy again.

If we want rising standards of living, we need access to other markets and cheap imports. While U.S. cotton farmers might lose their subsidies, they now have access to China's market, where their sales have risen from $46 million three years ago to an estimated $1 billion this year. In its core area of strength, services, U.S. exports have grown to $264 billion annually. Access to low-cost foreign goods has increased the American family's purchasing power by about $2,000. And these gains have in turn fueled growth in other countries' raising their standards of living.

And that's why we keep voting Republican.

The Bush administration accepts the loss of sovereignty on trade, but it rejects it almost everywhere else. For conservatives, trade is somehow different from all other activities.

Well, there is a distinct difference between buying a watermelon and having your head blown off, but that nuanced distinction seems to be lost at MSNBC.

Actually there are lots of areas where an agreement among several countries will produce benefits for all. No one country has an incentive to act alone to tackle environmental problems.

Is that so? Then I guess all those massive cleanup efforts in our waterways didn't really happen then, seeing as how we did them without an internation agreement. In fact, I think I'll just go dump some more mercury down at my secret fishing spot. Fish just love that stuff.

But a collective approach would reduce the dangers for all.

That's if you're zebras, Zakaria, not necessarily people. Protection by clumping into a herd only goes so far in the modern world.

The same is true of the spread of diseases, which can disrupt countries far away from the places where the virus originates. Again, only a regional or global approach can produce a "win-win" solution.

Yet who do they always call in when the shit hits the fan, WHO or the CDC? Chalk another one up for American multilateralism.

Even on a national-security issue like global terrorism, a crucial solution involves creating common standards and procedures across the world to search people and goods, share information, shut down bank accounts and make arrests. Otherwise terrorists will simply relocate to the weak point in the system.

Yet wouldn't it make more sense to have the standards vary widely, so the terrorists can fine tune on a security weakness common in ALL countries? The key is not to be the wink link in the chain, not to make sure some links aren't doubly strong, mandated to be weaker than they could by international agreements.

"In an increasingly globalized world where everything—people, drugs, money—travels freely across borders, there is a need for global solutions," says Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy. "But few global solutions are being proposed. This gap between demand and supply is being filled by instability."

And yet other moonbats keep screaming about the "globalization" of everything. Now which is it, moonbats? Are we withdrawing from the world or taking it over? You'd think they could at least get their conspiracy theories straight.

The Bush administration wants to apply economic solutions to many areas of life. If only it would practice what it preaches.

Actually we apply economic solutions to the military, as well. In fact, if you look at a cost benefit analysis of Iraq all the indicators said invade. Just have a look at the revenue blown trying to enforce the sanctions, costs incurred from failures of the sanctions, potential future instability under the sanctions, costs of having the UN completely corrupted by Saddam, etc. The true financial calculation, however, was that of the French, Russians, and others, who compared these costs incurred by the US alone to the illegal money lining their own personal pockets. They made their calculations and we made ours.

May 2, 2004 in Politics | Permalink


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