|November 17, 2001||atimes.com|
War: Victories on the economic front
In an October 30, Washington DC speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick described what he thought was at stake in the just concluded Doha, Qatar World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings:
"This will be the first global meeting since the tragedy of September 11 ... The events of September 11 have set the stage for our work, just as officials meeting in Geneva 54 years ago [to work out the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT] needed to consider the imperatives of their time. America and the world have been attacked by a network of terrorists who are masters of destruction, but failures at construction. They stand for intolerance and abhor openness. They fear foreign ideas, religions, and cultures.
"They see the modern world as a threat, not an opportunity. They leave people in poverty and half of humankind, women, in subjugation. Their strategy is to terrorize and paralyze, not to debate and create. The international market economy - of which trade and the WTO are vital parts - offers an antidote to this violent rejectionism. Trade is about more than economic efficiency; it reflects a system of values: openness, peaceful exchange, opportunity, inclusiveness and integration, mutual gains through interchange, freedom of choice, appreciation of differences, governance through agreed rules, and a hope for betterment for all peoples and lands. Therefore, just as the Cold War reflected a contest of values, so will this campaign against terrorism. Just as our Cold War strategy recognized the interconnection of security and economics, so must America's strategy against terrorism. By promoting the WTO's agenda, especially a new negotiation to liberalize global trade, these 142 nations can counter the revulsive destructionism of terrorism."
The stakes in Doha, in the US view, thus, were high. But after the dismal failure of the 1999 Seattle WTO meetings, a new global round of trade negotiations with agreed parameters has been decided. The decision is of historic significance and will stand as an important victory on the economic security front in the war on terrorism, much as the 1947 GATT agreement marked an important victory in the early days of what came soon thereafter to be called the Cold War.
Most notably, that liberalization in the trade of agricultural products and provisions for the production and trade of cheaper generic drugs to combat HIV/AIDS and other pandemics are prominently included in the Doha Declaration gives developing nations a large stake in the success of the new trade round. The battle at Doha for these liberalization measures found the US fighting side-by-side with the developing nations and against protectionist objections by some European Union nations, mainly France. This outcome and the de facto trade alliances thus forged will prove of lasting value.
Also at Doha, China - the world's sixth largest economy in GDP terms - became a WTO member and will actively participate in the new round, thus assuring that the outcome will be broadly representative of the trade concerns of the world's principal economies. Only Russia is now missing from that concert.
But while the Washington and international press corps covering the summit meeting between US President George W Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past few days focused attention mainly on nuclear weapons and missile defense issues (and continuing US-Russian disagreements on the latter), much was accomplished on the economic front that will prove as strategically important as the Doha agreement. The US will throw its full support behind early Russian WTO entry, will lift existing trade restrictions enacted during the Cold War, and will assist Russia with debt relief regarding former Soviet Union foreign obligations.
Further, tentative agreements reached on the summit sidelines for US investment in oil and natural gas resources development in Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics has the strategic significance of creating a major energy supply alternative to the Middle East. Overall, Russia will be enabled to make large economic strides to leave the misery of the 1990s behind.
Communist ideologues from the late 1940s until the collapse of the Soviet empire abhorred free trade and market economies. Efforts from 1947 onward in the GATT context played a very large role in proving the material (and political) superiority of the free market. Today's Islamic terrorists abhor all forms of economic progress, as best expressed in the Zoellick speech. The new trade round and accompanying re-emergence of Russia as a powerful free market economic player will prove critically important in undermining and defeating the aims of the terrorists.
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