Monday, March 12, 2007

Extreme Callousness as Foreign Policy

It is difficult to understand why Bush would choose to tour Latin America at a time when his approval rating is so low both here and abroad. He has little to no political capital to draw on for this visit. While many have cited the reason as an attempt to undermine the rise to power of Chavez, this seems ludicrous. A visit by one of the least popular presidents in history, whose administration has all but ignored Latin America except on issues of bi-lateral trade, seems like a poor public relations move. Bi-lateral trade deals place individual countries up against the U.S. These countries have little to no chance to bring measures to the table they want addressed. While the breakdown of the current trade round was celebrated by many(myself included), these bi-lateral trade regimes are an extremely negative consequence of this show of solidarity by the Global South.

Bush's claim that the U.S. is planning on helping out the poor in Latin America seem particularly hollow. He has continually demonstrated contempt for those measures instituted by Latin American countries that have actually improved the position of the poor. The Bush administration has berated countries that have implemented pro-poor policies. Steps such as nationalization of companies and redistribution of land ownership monopolies that have often been successful in raising the standard of living for the poor. While measures such as nationalization of companies are controversial, it is often forgotten that many of these industries, particularly those such as natural resources, were initially privatized without the consent of the people. The profits that used to go into budgets of Latin American countries instead began to flow out of the country through multi-national corporations that had no invested interest in sustainable development or stewardship.

It is also interesting to see how the rhetoric output by Bush doesn't match the aid that has been made available to those in Latin America. Venezuela has pledged nearly three times the amount of aid that has been given by the U.S. to the region. Also, important issues that would fundamentally increase the standard of living for Latin Americans, such as access to U.S. markets for agricultural products, have not even been addressed by Bush. The continued disconnect between the discussion of free trade and the lack implementation of policy based on it is apparent. Though fair trade is a better way of organizing the international marketplace, while free trade is hegemonic, the central players could at least learn to play by its rules.

No comments: