Saturday, June 23, 2007

Death of Doha

I am always surprised at how isolated the United States is, considering its self proclaimed position as a global leader. I get the major networks here and CNN and FOX - alas, no NPR-and I scan the NYTimes and Washington Post, and thankfully, the BBC and DW TV from Germany. I am amazed at how little coverage there is of the "rest" the world, how internally focused the discussions are. Honestly, here on this little island, I get more news of the world than you in NYC.

Two days ago, international trade talks, known as the DOHA round,broke down. There are plenty of activists on the left inside the US who perhaps applaud this - thinking that this helps the developing world. It doesn´t. What would have helped was if all the people who had a concern for Africa, for Latin America, for the developing world had really gotten up in arms about the agricultural subsidies and made thier elimination part of the progressive agenda. Instead the "antiglobalization" groups make common cause with the heavily protectionist French - who use 40% of the EU budget to subsidize their farmers.

Americans sit tight in their homes, thinking about going to Home Depot to redo their kitchens, content that they are, in fact, sending lots of aid to Africa, and after all, it isn´t as if we created the problem there, right? Wrong.

The Global South cannot compete with the subsidized products of the North- the cotton, the sugar, the rice, the corn. They do not have the money to subsidize their farmers, do not even have the money to educate their children - but must still pay their debts to the World Bank, etc.

Informed estimates (William Easterly, President Carter) are that the developing world has lost about 6 times the amount of money in trade that it has gotten in aid. So it continues, now, the colonial exploitation of the poor by the rich.

Haiti, once the richest producer of coffee, rice, sugar, oranges, art and handcrafts in the hemisphere, is now reduced to trading used clothing and subsidized rice, shipped in from America. The biggest HOPE that America has offered is to open more clothing factories where the Haitians can work for 10 hours a day, for $3 a day. But even under those conditions, there are more than a few applicants for every job.

India and Brazil walked out of the talks - said, no, in fact, they were not going to take it anymore - not going to reduce their trade barriers to let in more ¨products from the Global North.

Yesterday, the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, was in Brazil, meeting with President Lula de Silva. Brazil is now the global leader in ethanol -becoming a green leader in the world.

Like many of the nations here - Haiti and the DR; Brazil still recognizes the democratic government of Taiwan. But, well, suppose that China, which we used to call Red China or Communist China, were to decide that the future of the world would be better served if it aligns itself with the Global South, and stopped, as it could do anyday, buying up the Treasury Bills of the US Government.

It could happen any day now, America. They could just cut off your credit card.

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