With, without. And who’ll deny that’s what the fighting’s all about – Pink Floyd, Us And Them.
In the last decade, ‘global issues’ have become an important concern of every government in the civilized world. Leaders of all democratic nations have finally woken up to the reality that co-operating through international bodies is the only way forward to combat the major problems that beset the planet – climate change, war and terrorism and global trade.
It would be nice if it were true. But it isn’t. That’s because whatever any other country, or countries, on the planet might propose or sign up to, the US simply goes its own way to protect its people and its economy. President Bush might say that he wants ‘worldly matters’ to be conducted with the most international support possible, but the proof is as far from the pudding as you can get.
Take the climate change issue. Many nations from around the world agreed to the Kyoto Protocol way back in 1997. It set out emissions reduction targets that they all pledged to meet, altruistically hoping to save the planet from disaster. So what did they do to support the initiative in the US? The US withdrew from the Protocol due to the harm that it would do to the US economy. So much for world agreement on the environment, then.
Next up, there’s the war in Iraq – a war based on the idea that terribly dangerous weapons of mass destruction should be removed from the hands of a mad dictator. While many nations sought a second UN resolution before committing to the war, the White House said only that it would be ‘desirable but not mandatory.’ Then, with some help from the UK, they went ahead and flattened the place. So much for world agreement on war and terrorism, then.
Finally, a subject closer to our own hearts: steel. And more specifically the news that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has recently ruled that the tariffs imposed by the US last year on steel imports contravene WTO rules. In response to the news, Thomas J. Usher, Chairman of the United States Steel Corporation, said that the WTO decision was ‘inconsistent with the facts and inconsistent with the law.’
Expressing frustration that the WTO continues to ‘systematically undermine fair application of the US trade laws’, Usher said that the WTO decision appeared to be ‘based on bias, not fact.’ In fact, he added, ‘the US has once again been subjected to the ‘double-barrelled bias’ of an institution set on weakening both the position of the US in the trading world and the world’s trade laws.’
In a move to ‘solve’ the problem, the next logical ‘global policy decision’ from the US might simply be to extricate itself from the WTO. So much for world agreement on trade, then.
Should we be surprised if this were to happen? No. It’s par for the course. As the trade gloom deepens, and American industries stay in recession, through their own bungled mismanagement or through fierce competition from emerging countries like China, it’s hardly surprising that the barriers to internationalism are going up all over. Because after all – America won’t leave its industries behind.