- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

‘HEAVY-HANDED’

British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald scolded the United States for flirting with protectionist trade policies and imposing “heavy-handed” methods to prevent foreign competition, in a speech in President Obama’s hometown, the capitalist powerhouse of Chicago.

Mr. Sheinwald on Monday criticized the $787 billion stimulus spending package for including provisions that could be interpreted by federal and state officials as requiring them to buy only American-produced goods with the federal money. He also denounced a House-passed aviation bill, which would set “onerous” conditions on European plants that repair and service U.S. airliners.

After also criticizing the European Union for reimposing export subsidies for dairy products, Mr. Sheinwald added, “Here in the United States, there are worrying signs, too.”

The ambassador noted that the record of the debate over the stimulus bill in February clearly shows that Congress intended that foreign firms “should be free to compete” for federal contracts, although American firms would be favored under certain circumstances.

“However, the danger is that some officials interpret the ‘buy-American’ provisions as simply banning all foreign companies or foreign-made goods,” Mr. Sheinwald said. “We will be monitoring the issue very closely and will want to see federal, state and local authorities held to account to give U.S. citizens and [British] businesses the best deal.”

He noted that the “buy-American” measures would reportedly save about 9,000 U.S. jobs, but 65,000 American jobs depend on foreign governments buying U.S. products.

Those are “jobs that could be lost, if other countries implement their own ‘buy-national’ provisions,” he said.

Mr. Sheinwald also criticized a House-passed reauthoriziation bill for the Federal Aviation Administration that would place “onerous certification conditions” on foreign firms that repair or service U.S. commercial airliners.

“This is completely unnecessary,” he said, adding that the United States and European Union already have an agreement on common standards for airliner repairs.

The ambassador explained that U.S. firms perform four times the number of repairs on European aircraft, as European firms do on U.S. planes.

“All that would be put at risk by this heavy-handed measure,” he said. “It is this sort of creeping protectionism that we must guard against.”

TOO FAR RIGHT?

Europe is veering too far to the political right, according to the chairmen of a congressional human rights panel who fear a rise of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim anger was reflected in the recent European Parliament elections.

“The outcome of these elections sends the signal that it is OK to be blatantly racist,” said Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and co-chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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