U.S. Tsunami aid

Bush has increased America's relief pledge by $600 million for nations affected by the December tsunami, making the total amount of aid $950 million. That combined with the estimated $800 million given from private sources is nothin' to sneeze at.

Similarly, I'd wager it's good news that the EU has decided to alter its tariff "preferences". This quote, was telling:

British charity Oxfam welcomed the move, but warned that more action was needed.

"The European Commissions decision to bring forward a new system of trade preferences for poor countries will help reduce poverty by improving market access, but the gains will be limited as many protectionist measures persist," the aid agency said in a statement.

Hmmnn. Improving market access helps developing countries? You don't say!? Protectionist measures on the part of rich, powerful countries, harm struggling economies? Sounds like Oxfam may have figured it out, now it's our turn. The Daily Times of Pakistan frames it thus:

There is also need to keep an eye on how much of the trade relief requested by the tsunami-affected countries will take effect. Sri Lanka, which lost nearly all its coastal fishing fleet, requested tariff relief for its textile and apparel exports. Thailand and India have done the same regarding shrimp exports. But the requests have already triggered fierce opposition from US textile manufacturers and shrimp farmers unhappy at being asked to open their markets further. Any change in import tariffs would require congressional approval, and Congress is hesitant to provide trade assistance to tsunami victims. Given the clout of the textile industry in Congress, any effort to extend trade relief will meet with fierce opposition.

If goading had anything to do with the U.S. increasing the sheer dollar amount given, perhaps it's time to consider charging congress and the President with the task of purging existing subsidies and the like. Trade policy that puffs up failing industries at the expense, in this case, of fishermen and textile workers half-a-world away (trying to get by on comparatively little) trying to recover from arguably the worst natural disaster in history is stupid. Axing said policies will do more good than cash chucked around higglty-piglty (though, by all accounts we're doing better at giving money this time than ever before). Just think, we get to help folks annnd buy cheap shrimp and clothing. Ohh, the invisible hand of capitalism...

1 comment:

Joe said...

The prevalence of subsidies is one of those great and largely unaddressed issues that haunts both sides of the free trade debate. The pro-free trade western powers (i.e., the republican party and the third-way democrats, and the Tony Blair labor party) praise the glory of the market with one side of their mouths while protecting their ass by pacifying big agri-business and the xenophobic voting public with the other side. On the other hand, the anti-free traders (the brick-through-the-window types) are forced into the ridiculous position of criticizing the cruelties of capitalism, when in fact greater freedom in the market (i.e., fewer subsidies) would help economic development in third-world areas.

Oh, I also wanted to mention that Bush is proposing a cut in agricultural subsidies in his budget.