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Western Press Review: The Many Faces Of Globalization

Prague, 2 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Genoa is no longer just the name of a city in Italy. Since the world's leading industrialized nations plus Russia held a highly visible summit there last month, Western commentary is also turning Genoa into a word symbolizing varied aspects of globalization.


"The Times" of London says today in an editorial that the issue underlying all of those aspects is trade. The editorial says: "[British Prime Minister] Tony Blair's effort to engage Argentina, Brazil and Mexico as allies in what passes for debate on globalization is exactly the right response to the anarchist miseries of Genoa."

The newspaper says: "Free trade always has powerful enemies. And it will have to be fought for particularly hard if the world's three leading economic regions falter at the same time. That risk exists: Japan continues to drift and in Europe and the United States, a quarter of a million jobs have been lost since last spring. Mr. Blair's anger over the Genoa protesters thus goes hand in hand with an eminently practical purpose."

The editorial concludes: "[Blair's] priority is to protect the new round of world trade negotiations, due to be launched this November in Doha, from being damaged by short-term economic jitters. Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, he believes, are allies not just against anti-capitalist protest but against protectionist trends within the European Union. [The EU] has never been a paragon of free trade. And the alleged evils of globalization, dubbed by French liberals 'le capitalisme sauvage,' could all too easily be made a populist excuse for protectionism."


German commentator Andreas Oldag, writing in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," says that the nations of the European Union -- the organization that leads in demanding reforms of the countries of Central Europe -- are resisting reforming themselves. He writes: "Displeasure is mounting in [the EU's headquarters in] Brussels at the lack of zeal among member states of the European Union in carrying out reforms."

Oldag writes that since the European economy has entered its current slowdown, European states are relapsing "into protectionism and economic nationalism." He says, "The strategy of the EU states against the [competition policies] of the EU commission is one of delaying, hindering and blocking decisions."

The commentator says that the EU Commission is a defender of the free market, both as an advocate of reform and as an investigator of price fixing. He says, however, that the commission is overworked and under-resourced and hampered by member nations' maneuvers.

The writer says: "The Brussels-based authority should hold strong and prevent everything that undermines its responsibilities. Because, if the guarantor for the single market and free competition withdraws from the vanguard, Europe's economy will have a gloomy future."


"Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" commentator Thomas Schmid looks back at the actions of Italian police at the Genoa summit and concludes that the police bumbled in managing the anti-trade, anti-globalization demonstrators that invaded the city. But, he says, many of the demonstrators were intentionally and skillfully provocative. Schmid writes, "During the [G-7] summit of the world's leading industrialized countries [plus Russia] in Genoa, and even more so in the days that followed, Italy's security forces presented a sorry picture."

The writer says, "That Genoa now seems to be emerging as a symbol of arbitrary police action also has some roots in old Italian traditions."

He concludes, however, that conspiracy theorists and other critics of the police are overlooking a basic truth -- "the fact that the violence did not descend on Genoa from out of the blue but was incited by people who traveled there for exactly that purpose."


An editorial in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" says: "Democracy is based on the principle of political responsibility. Where [Italian] police are concerned this lies with the minister of the interior, [Claudio Scajola]. Since the security forces made grave mistakes in Genoa, which hardly can be denied, then the minister has to go."


The "Los Angeles Times" devotes space to a commentary submitted by Robert Hunter of the U.S. public policy organization, the Rand Corporation. Hunter, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, writes: "At the Genoa [G-7 plus Russia] summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave President Bush a priceless going-away present -- implicit acceptance that Moscow will not let the [1972] Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty stand in the way of (America's) building a missile defense shield. [However] little in this world is free, especially in dealing with the Russians. Putin expects to be paid."

The commentator writes, "What the Russian leader really wants from the United States and the West is support for Russia's still-flagging economy." Hunter continues, "Given that the United States does want the Russian economy to succeed, paying just this part of Putin's price is not such a bad deal for Bush."


The "International Herald Tribune" publishes two commentaries today originally published in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times." "The Washington Post" editorial reaches a conclusion on U.S. relations with Russia's Putin government different from Hunter's.

The editorial says, "There is a worrying thinness to [U.S. President] George W. Bush's engagement with Vladimir Putin." It says: "There is a risk that the net result of the [U.S.] administration's strategy will not be a partnership with, but a disengagement from, Russia. This could release the United States from any constraint from Moscow over the development of missile defenses, but also de-energize U.S. efforts to push Russia toward a full embrace of democracy and human rights."

The editorial concludes: "The fact remains that Mr. Putin has been leading his country away from democratic norms, a trend that, if continued, ultimately will undermine any security framework not governed by treaty."


In the "IHT" and "The New York Times," commentator Paul Krugman writes: "[U.S.] Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill recently gave an interview in which he dismissed claims that the dollar was overvalued, arguing that concerns about the trade deficit were based on 'trivial and wrong notions.' He also thinks that concepts like gross domestic product are obsolete."

Krugman writes wryly, "I took his remarks as an indication that the dollar's inevitable decline probably will come sooner rather than later." The commentator writes, "That will be embarrassing for Mr. O'Neill, but it will be a good thing for the American economy."

The writer says: "The dollar has been rising against the currencies of other industrial countries since the middle of the 1990s. This sustained rise has made dollar bears look foolish, but it also has priced U.S. products out of world markets."

He says: "Eventually the process ends. And you know the end is nigh when white-haired executives reject old-fashioned accounting. That means that the mania has spread to the suits, and that the Ponzi scheme is about to run out of suckers."