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Western Press Review: Trade Wars And Power Struggles Come Under Scrutiny

  • Joel Blocker
  • Dora Slaba



Prague, 19 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Some Western press commentators assess the significance of yesterday London's summit meeting between the European Union and U.S., which confirmed a compromise on trade issues that had sharply divided the two for many months. Most analysts see the agreement as a positive step. Others focus on Indonesia' continuing political and economic turmoil, while a few are still exploring the fall-out from last week nuclear tests by India.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Extraterritorial sanctions have soured the U.S.-EU relationship for too long

Britain's Financial Times says that "yesterday's announcement that U.S,. extra-territorial sanctions (for nations trading with Iran, Iraq or Libya) may be on their way out is not just good news for oil companies eager to with Iran." In an editorial, the paper writes: "It could also mark a productive new era in relations between the US and the EU. U.S. extra-territorial legislation has been a serious irritant in the trans-Atlantic relationship." The editorial continues: "But the deal...has to survive domestic U.S. reaction , which could be very hostile. (President) Bill Clinton has the authority to grant waivers under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, but needs congressional approval to amend the Helm -Burton Act (on Cuba), which could still be very difficult to get." The paper concludes: "Extraterritorial sanctions have soured the U.S.-EU relationship for too long, and must be removed as soon as possible. Mr. Clinton will have to be as adept in dealing with Congress as he had been in dealing with the EU. This deal is too important to be allowed to fail."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Easing of Western sanctions against Western ideals is a gamble that might not pay off

Britain's Daily Telegraph also considers the compromise a positive one, although, it notes: "Washington has made the larger concession." The paper writes in it editorial "The deal...is good for trans-Atlantic relations: instead of engaging in a trade war, the two sides announced an initiative to reduce trade barrier." The editorial continues: "The main doubts concern Iran. It is legitimate to seek a reformist faction against the anti-Western diehards. But there is scant evidence to date that the moderate President Mohammed Khatami's prevailing against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's spiritual leader. The paper concludes: "The Europeans will be congratulating themselves on snubbing the (U.S.) Republicans who sponsored the two (sanctions) Acts. They would do well to remember that the easing of Western sanctions against Western ideals is a gamble that might not pay off."

GUARDIAN: This is the first international fruit of the Clinton-Blair Third Way

A new analysis by the British Guardian's diplomatic editor, Martin Walker says that the agreement reached yesterday by Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain --currently EU president-- show "they share an ideological outlook that is sometimes dubbed the Third Way, or post-modern social democracy." Walker goes on: "(The Clinton-Blair relation) seeks to transcend traditional Left and Right, combine the free market with a social conscience, and replace the welfare state with the 'social investment state.' Yesterday, Walker adds, "was the first time it was put into the context of world trade, and represented the first international fruit of the Clinton-Blair ideological relation."

NEW YORK TIMES: The EU and Russia agreed to tighten control of the export of weapons technology to Iran

A New York Times news analysis by James Bennett says that in exchange for Clinton waiving sanctions against EU countries trading with Iran or Cuba, "the EU and Russia agreed to tighten control of the export of weapons technology to Iran...and the EU agreed with the U.S. to set up a system to govern confiscated property in Cuba and elsewhere." The analysis goes on: "American officials acknowledged that the waiver would put American companies at a disadvantage in Iran....American energy companies are prohibited in investing in Iran by an Executive Order passed in 1996." In, exchange, Bennett says, "the EU has agreed to a series of so-called disciplines to limit investment in Cuba and elsewhere."

JOURNAL OF COMMERCE: There has never been a better time for Brussels and Moscow to act

Yesterday, the U.S. Journal of Commerce ran a commentary suggesting that the EU pay more attention to Russia than the U.S. The paper wrote: "A seIf-indulgent, back-slapping summit between the United States and the European Union in London (grabs) more than its share of headlines. By contrast, a much more important summit between the EU and Russia, held on the margins of last weekend's G-7 plus Russia gathering, received little notice. Yet the second event is immeasurably more important than (Birmingham's) stage-managed gathering."

The editorial continued: "It doesn't make sense for European officials to spend more time dealing with America, which isn't a problem, than with Russia, which is." The paper noted that "the EU has made some progress, notably through a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that strengthens commercial and cultural ties with Russia. It also has eased entry for Russian exports and holds out the prospect of a free-trade zone". But it continued: "Relations between Brussels and Moscow have bogged down in squabbles over Russian carpet imports and EU dumping duties on the few basic exports it can sell in Europe, such as steel pipes and fertilizers" The paper concluded: "The EU economy is booming and the euro looks set for a dream debut. Just as important, Russia's economy is growing for the first time in years. There has never been a better time for Brussels and Moscow to act."

DAGENS NYHETER: Over 30 years under Suharto's rule has left a weighty legacy

Turning to Indonesia, the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter writes in an editorial: "Whoever becomes the next president of Indonesia will take over a heavily beleaguered country. The more than 30 years under Suharto's rule has left a weighty legacy. There is a high risk that the people's joy at the fall of the dictator will fast turn into disappointment. His successor must govern along prescribed lines, and the results may be scant." The editorial goes on: "Frequently dictatorships stamp an impression on whole societies. (Thus in Indonesia) all the institutions are marked by (Suharto), there is no democratic culture and the old power centers are interested in surviving. In addition, those who are fighting for changes have diverse aims. Some are above all keen on an end to the economic crisis, whereas others want a thorough revision of the entire corrupt political system. For still others the overriding aim is to distance President Suharto from power."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Harmoko brought down the last pillars of Suharto's legitimacy

In Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung today, Stefan Klein says: "We knew that Indonesia's President Suharto was wobbling. Many have hoped that he would be pushed and finally topple. What may turn out to be the final deciding push would come from the speaker of the house, Harmoko, who (yesterday) surprised everyone throughout the troubled country (by calling for Suharto to step down). Harmoko," says Klein, who writes from Singapore, is "the most loyal of the loyal, the man who whipped parliament into line on Suharto's behalf. Of all people, it was this faithful servant who with a single sentence brought down the last pillars of legitimacy under Suharto's rule." But he adds: "On Monday evening it was apparent that army leaders are still loyal to Suharto. There is no other way of interpreting the statement from the chief of the armed forces, Wiranto, that Harmoko's call for Suharto's resignation was illegal and unconstitutional." Klein concludes: "Monday's confusion --first the resignation call from the speaker of the house, and then the bullying from the head of the armed forces --did not bode well for the future."

NEW YORK TIMES: India's nuclear weapons tests threaten to undo 35 years of work

Adding its editorial voice to a chorus of Western press comment condemning India's nuclear tests, the New York Times today says: "India's nuclear weapons tests threaten to undo 35 years worth of work by the United States and other countries to limit the spread of nuclear arms. Instead of abandoning those efforts and improvising new approaches, a course recommended by some arms control experts, Washington and its allies should redouble their commitment to make the international control system work effectively." The editorial continues: "As difficult as it may be, India and Pakistan must be persuaded to sign and abide by the 1996 test ban treaty that has now been signed by 149 nations. By joining the treaty, India and Pakistan would bind themselves to refrain from any future testing. Their inclusion would also make it easier to detect violations by permitting the installation of monitoring equipment at their nuclear test sites."

TAGESANZEIGER: Setting an example would be more effective

Switzerland's Tagesanzeiger newspaper yesterday also took a critical view of the reactions to last week's Indian nuclear tests: The paper wrote: "More effective than reproaches and punishment would be a far better means called: setting an example. In the G-7 plus Russia there are in total --with the U.S., Britain, France and Russia-- nevertheless four out of the world's five declared nuclear powers." The paper went on: "These four could decide in the near future to relinquish their nuclear weapons. This would make their appeals for an nuclear-free world more credible and weightier. But there is not a single line about this in the communique from the (pas weekend's) Birmingham summit."

DER STANDARD: The basic issue between Delhi and Islamabad is an irreconcilable hatred

Der Standard of Austria yesterday saw "no relaxation of tension between India and Pakistan." The paper wrote: "With all the strategic and security-policy considerations, the basic issue between Delhi and Islamabad is an irreconcilable hatred between the two and a wall of pride from which all the warnings and enticements from the East and West rebound." The paper's editorial continued: "Pakistan cannot complain of a lack of generosity in security guarantees from the U.S, which offered the delivery of long-blocked combat jets, and support from Beijing. Yet this does not satisfy an inner (Pakistani) need to treat the opponent (India) just as it has been treated itself."

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