September 2009

When I see the decisions the U.S. Government, the European Union and others have recently taken with respect to international trade, I feel like the Claude Rains character in the classic film Casablanca, who says “I am shocked -  Shocked! – to find gambling going on in this establishment,” just as one of the casino employees hands him his cut of the evening’s take.

Days after President Obama imposed a 35% duty on low-end tires imported from China comes the news that the European Union has just hit imports of steel pipe from China with a 40% anti-dumping tariff. This was ground-breaking in its own way. Normally, companies need to demonstrate lost sales attributable to the alleged dumping before their governments will raise duties, but in the words of Georg Berrisch of Covington & Burling, the law firm representing the European steel pipe producers, “The case shows that industries must not necessarily wait for injury to occur…to take measures against an onslaught of dumped Chinese imports.” This sounds very much like George W. Bush’s justification for invading Iraq. [click to continue…]

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President Obama, hosting the G20 meetings that kick off today in Pittsburgh, has asked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to deliver a presentation on his country’s elimination of fuel price subsidies, replacing them with needs-based grants to poor consumers. The U.S. estimates that if developing countries were to follow Indonesia’s example they could reduce fossil fuel emissions by 12%. The question is whether President Obama is willing to follow his own advice. [click to continue…]

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To anyone who has studied anthropology – it was my major in college – a visit to Papua New Guinea can’t fail to excite. PNG, a country with over 1,000 tribes and 700 languages – nearly half the world’s total – has almost certainly been the source of more anthropological monographs than any other place on earth. They include Bronislaw Malinowski’s classic “The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia,” about the Trobriand Islanders, and Margaret Mead’s “Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies,” which became part of the feminist canon for its depiction of three tribes in the Sepik River basin, one of which was determinedly pacifist, one female dominated, and one in which women and men were equally warlike. The body of Mead’s work tends to reflect her own sexual and political fantasies more than it does closely observed social behaviors, but never mind that. [click to continue…]

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The Cato Institute’s Daniel Ikenson has just posted this, a succinct summary of the winners and losers from President Obama’s decision to impose punitive tariffs on imports of tires from China. It was a short-sighted decision, pandering to Obama’s base of support in Big Labor (wasn’t giving the unions a huge share of both GM and Chrysler payback enough?). China already plans to retaliate with huge tariff increases on some American products, including frozen chicken. The move is similar to George Bush’s tariffs on imported steel enacted just before the 2002 midterm elections to try to get Republican votes in  House and Senate contests seats in West Virginia, a steel-producing state.  As short-sighted and nakedly political as that decision was, at least it didn’t come at a time of global economic crisis. With this year’s precipitous drop in global trade and heightened tensions with China, this move comes at the worst possible time. It risks igniting a trade war between two of the world’s largest economies when the world can least afford it, and stifling the recovery before it has even really begun.

President Obama Subsidizes President Obama with Tire Tariff

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Crossing the Kasr el Nil Bridge that spans the Nile in central Cairo at eleven o’clock at night is like walking down 42nd Street in New York at rush hour, only more crowded. Cairo is the real city that never sleeps, and never more so than the current month of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking from dawn to dusk and then pass the nighttime hours eating, smoking the shisha water pipe, and relaxing with friends and family. The streets are thronged: families having picnics on tiny patches of grass beside roaring four-lane roads; older men in serious conversation, smoking and playing backgammon in sidewalk cafes; groups of adolescent boys roaming around looking for adventure; and courting couples sitting chastely on park benches or standing together on bridges, whispering to each other and watching the lights of Cairo reflected on the water. [click to continue…]

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