Sunday, February 04, 2007

US Bully Tactics Again

The United States is behaving like a bully again in the international arena to placate its populist concerns.

Newspapers today reported that the Bush administration, kowtowing to a more belligerent Congress on China trade, has hauled Beijing before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over 'illegal' industrial subsidies.

In the page one article of Singapore's The Sunday Times today:
In the largest action of its kind - one that could escalate tensions between the two trading giants - Washington said China has persisted with subsidies that, under WTO rules, distort global trade.

'We are seeking to level the playing field to allow US manufacturers to compete fairly with Chinese firms,' US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.

She added: 'The United States believes that China uses its basic tax laws and other tools to encourage exports and to discriminate against imports of a variety of American manufactured goods.'

The decision to go to the WTO is the first step in what could be an 18-month process to determine whether Beijing has contravened trade laws.

In the first instance, both sides will try to resolve the dispute through consultation. If these talks fail, the WTO will step in. If it rules in favour of the US, there could be sanctions on China's products - with huge ramifications for Beijing's exports and for ties between the two nations.

It is laughable for Uncle Sam to accuse China of contravening trade laws.

One should not neglect mentioning US has not lived up to its own words in its trade policy. The US, under President George W Bush, has continued to subsidise its corn and cotton farmers heavily. This goes against the spirit of free trade and is hypocritical as developed nations force poorer nations to remove farm subsidies in their own backyard.

Oh yes, don't forget the heavy protection for US steel industry while US trade officials scream protectionism in other countries. Did I leave anything out? Oh yes, sugar cane farmers from the Bush home state of Florida are well protected species.

The rest of the world should paraphrase Schwab and tell the US: "We are seeking to level the playing field to allow the rest of the world to compete fairly with the US."

Another example of its bully tactic is its current Free Trade Agreement discussion with Malaysia.

US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Lantos has urged trade officials to suspend FTA talks with Malaysia until it halts a US$16 billion deal to develop gas fields in southern Iran, according to wire reports.

Malaysia has rightfully warned that it will drop FTA talks with the US if it is asked to scrap the gas deal with Iran.

The Iran issue is a separate matter from the FTA, as the US is working to sanction Iran over what it believes is an Iranian programme to develop nuclear weapons.

And the US action against Iran is highly dubious as the Muslim country has not used its capability as an overt threat against its neighbours or enemies. One should not forget the fiasco in Iraq when listening to the US.

One should not be easily swayed by US propaganda and its imperialistic design.

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