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Western Press Review: World Economics, U.S. Foreign Policy

  • Don Hill

Prague, 16 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary leans heavily on world economic topics, and addresses U.S. foreign policy, among other topics.

NEW YORK TIMES: The IMF is a more plausible villain than the WTO

In a New York Times commentary, staff writer Paul Krugman discusses the anti-globalization protests in Thailand during a meeting of the UN's trade and development agency, UNCTAD. The protests are aimed at outgoing IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus. The commentary says this: "The IMF is a more plausible villain than the World Trade Organization, the bizarrely demonized target of the Seattle protests. The IMF is no more a world government than the WTO is; but through the conditions that it imposes in return for loans, the IMF does, at least in times of crisis, get to dictate policies to sovereign states. The WTO, by contrast, is basically a commercial court; all it does is determine when countries are violating the agreements they have already made."

Krugman writes: "Many Third World leaders are contemptuous of their self-proclaimed Western friends who, in the words of Mexico's president, Ernesto Zedillo, are 'determined to save developing countries from development.' What [third-world leaders] don't want is affluent Westerners telling them -- strangely, at the very moment that some developing countries are finally starting to acquire a bit of real economic power -- what a terrible thing the modern world is."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Expensive oil could throttle the global economy

Writing in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, commentator Helmut Maier-Mannhart takes up the topic of crude oil prices rising to near $30 a barrel. As the German writer puts it: "The closer it gets to this mark, the more disturbed become the markets and also the politics of the matter. The Paris-based International Energy Agency has warned that expensive oil could throttle the global economy at a time when it has just started to rebound after the crises in Asia and South America. U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said that the world doesn't need less but rather more oil, and this rather sooner than later. This should be understood as a serious warning to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, that the cartel should renounce its rigid policy of oil production quotas as soon as possible and open up the oil-taps further.'

The commentary says there's also a tactical reason for OPEC to loosen oil supplies. In Maier-Mannhart's words: "The higher the oil price rises, the more profitable it will become to exploit new deposits. The OPEC countries already had to learn this lesson. When they forced prices up in the early '70s, exploitation of the North Sea oil resources, which were too expensive to explore until then, began. This led to a considerable increase in supplies and a corresponding effect on prices."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Willing immigrants of all sorts are an asset to the country

A Wall Street Journal Europe commentary bridges economics and U.S. foreign policy. The newspaper praises U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan for his long-time, consistent pro-immigrant policy. But the editorial says that Greenspan unduly limits his idea by urging admission of skilled workers. The newspaper says this: "Our impression has been that the less skilled and even the non-skilled [also] contribute." It says: "We're talking about the kind of bonus valued by even the most staid citizens: property values. Immigrants, it turns out, are very, very good for both residential and commercial property values."

The editorial cites a recent study by researchers at the U.S.-based Alexis de Tocqueville Institute. The researchers found that immigration of Asians, Ethiopians, Hispanics and Somalis in and around Washington, D.C., correlated with increases in residential property values. In the words of the editorial: "The flip side of the logic also holds. The Alexis de Tocqueville researchers found that neighborhoods where the number of foreign-born decreased also usually saw values drop."

The Wall Street Journal Europe concludes: "Willing immigrants of all sorts are an asset to the country -- and for that matter, to the neighborhood."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Republican voters are trying to measure the candidates' overall fitness for world leadership

The International Herald Tribune publishes today an analysis by Washington Post writer Robert Kagan saying that U.S. foreign policy has emerged as the biggest topic so far in this year's Republican Party presidential primaries. Foreign policy is, as he puts it, "bigger than education, campaign finance reform or abortion. As big as Social Security." Kaplan says that Republican voters are, in his words, "doing something that is more important [than considering details of foreign policy issues]: They are trying to measure the candidates' overall fitness for world leadership."

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: The United States must redefine its global role

From a southwestern U.S. state, a commentary in The Arizona Republic by Norman Levine says that the United States has had three great debates over foreign policy in the last 100 years. The first two were over entering World War One and mobilizing for the Cold War against Soviet communism, he says. The new one, in Levine's words, "is this: Now that we (the United States) have inherited the world, how shall we rule it?"

In the writer's words: "What is at stake in the outcome of this debate is nothing less than the peace and prosperity of all Americans in the coming century. Fortunately, America is at peace at the moment, but with the demise of the Soviet Union as the second-greatest superpower, many areas of instability and threat have surfaced on international waters. Terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to rogue states such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism have brought a series of mortal challenges to America's doorstep. The United States must redefine its global role once again, for that act of self-definition is vital to the security of the nation. Sadly, it is only every four years, at the time of the presidential election, that Americans come to face these life-and-death issues for themselves and for their children."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Iraq's is one issue that could bite the new president

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, former editor John Hughes warns that voters considering their choice for the next U.S. president should pay close attention to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. As Hughes puts it: "American elections are not won by foreign-policy debates [but] Iraq's is one [issue] that could bite the new president, whoever he may be, soon after he takes office. Saddam has treated the Clinton administration with contempt. It would not be surprising then, if he tried early on to test the mettle of a new president to see what weaknesses and strengths he displays after the Clinton administration."

The writer concludes with this: "The U.S. presidential candidates [generally] have subscribed to two basic tenets that traditionally motivate U.S. foreign policy, namely the national interests of the U.S. and the moral values, such as democracy, that most Americans believe should be engendered in countries elsewhere. Both factors apply in the case of Iraq."