George W. Bush: Anti-Globalist
by Jim Lobe
anti-globalization radicals really want to tear down the world capitalist
system they might want to go door-to-door next year on behalf of
incumbent U.S. president, George W. Bush.
Bush brags about his business experience and identifies with the
interests of wealthy US capitalists, a continuation of the policies
he has pursued since Sept. 11, 2001 threatens not only the US economy,
whose ballooning defense-driven federal deficit risks a potentially
disastrous collapse of the dollar.
his insistence on effectively exempting the United States from the
rule of international law commercial as well as human rights
law also threatens the very foundation of the multilateral economic
system under which global corporate capitalism has prospered for
more than 50 years, according to a growing number of economic analysts.
multinational corporations, which act as both the chief engines
and beneficiaries of the global system, the rule of law provides
the predictability they need to make investment decisions. Without
it, countries find it much more difficult to attract capital and
benefit from global trade and investment regimes.
about Bush's unilateralist policies and their relationship to the
global economic order was first voiced late in 2002 as it became
clear that he was determined to go to war on the basis of a new
national-security doctrine that featured preemptive military action.
those who expressed alarm at the time were a number of former high-ranking
policy makers, most notably Jeffrey Garten, currently dean of the
Yale School of Management.
big issue is disregard for international law," he warned in
an article in Business Week magazine in an appeal to corporate
executives to weigh in against the administration's course.
U.N. Charter places stringent limits on the right of self-defense,
saying that the unilateral use of force can be used only against
imminent threat of attack."
danger is that once the US brazenly departs from international treaties,
it invites widespread cynicism about all global agreements and opens
the door to other nations' flaunting them too," Garten argued
at the time.
either by Congress, the UN Security Council or the captains of finance
and industry, Bush went to war, fueling a new round of warnings.
is anathema to investment and growth," wrote Business Week
editorial page editor Bruce Nussbaum as US troops crossed into Iraq
from Kuwait, noting that the war's possible consequences, as well
as the flaunting of international law, posed serious threats to
executives are beginning to worry that globalization may not be
compatible with a foreign policy of unilateral preemption,"
he went on.
corporations may soon find it more difficult to function in a multilateral
economic arena when their overseas business partners and governments
perceive America to be acting outside the bounds of international
law and institutions."
was Bush's self-exemption from international law seen as the only
blow against global corporate interests. The administration's plans
to privatize the Iraqi economy while awarding lucrative rebuilding
contracts to US companies also flew in the face of the interests
of a global capitalist system supposedly based on transparency and
imperialism is, by definition, a retreat away from global capitalism,
a retreat from the invisible hand of markets in favor of a more
dominant role for the visible fist of governments," argued
Paul McCulley, a managing director of PIMCO, the world's largest
bond investment fund.
the unabashed commitment to reward US companies (preferably political
contributors) in Iraq gave rise to fears about a new mercantilism
based ultimately on military (and hence government) power of the
kind that characterized European imperialism, as opposed to the
creation of an open global market in the war's immediate aftermath
fears that were fanned with the September collapse of the
World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round in Cancun.
fears reached their height earlier this month when Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz announced that companies from countries
that did not support the war in Iraq including some of Washington's
closest allies would be barred from bidding on some 18.6
billion dollars in contracts for Iraq's reconstruction, a decision
that, according to many trade experts, violates a WTO agreement
on government procurement.
decision announced the same day that Bush met with former
secretary of state James Baker to craft a strategy for persuading
US allies, including those whose companies were banned from bidding,
to forgive Iraq's 220 billion dollar foreign debt drew outrage
from affected governments, including France, Germany, Canada and
the European Union (EU).
is a bad idea because reciprocity is the foundation on which trade
depends," said Steven Schooner, an expert on international procurement
law at George Washington University here.
the US closes its public procurement market to foreign companies,
it empowers foreign states to exclude companies from their public
would expect most multinationals to cringe at the thought that one
government can decide by fiat to exclude from government procurement
entire swaths of the world," said Charlene Barshefsky, US trade
representative under former president Bill Clinton, adding, "open
markets and free and fair access (are) ... the lifeblood of multinationals."
these concerns, Bush, who is running for reelection next November,
publicly backed the decision in a statement that must have sent
chills down the spine of multinational CEOs. Asked by a reporter
if the ban violated international law, Bush answered, "International
law? I better call my lawyer. He didn't bring that up to me."
decision and Bush's sarcastic reaction might actually have finally
galvanized the corporate world, or at least Baker who is far
better attuned to the concerns of multinational companies than anyone
in the administration with comparable ties to the president.
after Wolfowitz's announcement and just before Baker's first trip
to Europe as Bush's personal envoy for Iraq debt reduction, the
White House quietly told the Pentagon and the Coalition Provisional
Authority in Baghdad to indefinitely suspend contract awards for
the 18.6 billion dollars.
to Washington Post columnist Robert Novak, the administration
is actively considering lifting the ban.
the decision would be an important signal to multinational corporations
that Bush may indeed be inclined to temper his unilateralist and
nationalist tendencies in the interest of maintaining a multilateral
order that is friendly to corporate-led globalization.
analysts like Garten are unlikely to take anything for granted.
"The business community ... is the only strong voice in this
country for continued globalization," he told a Los Angeles
audience last month.
at a very tender point in globalization where we could go forward
with more opening, more trade and more of the things that globalization
has brought, or we can go backwards and the world could very easily
fragment into different blocs of countries, more nationalism, more
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2003 Inter Press Service