- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2000

Stew over lamb

Don't talk to Australian Ambassador Michael Thawley about lamb unless you're ready for a mouthful of Aussie anger over U.S. restrictions on one of his country's chief exports.

Nothing the United States has done has "generated deeper and more widespread resentment in Australia than the imposition of lamb tariff quotas in July 1999," Mr. Thawley told the International Trade Commission at a recent hearing in Washington.

In unusually tough language for a diplomat, he said the impact fell directly on lamb producers but the "outrage was shared throughout Australia, in our cities as well as the country."

Mr. Thawley said the tariffs have failed to promote the growth of the U.S. lamb market. U.S. farmers are raising fewer sheep and selling their breeding flock, he said.

"The U.S. lamb industry has proved unable to provide stable supplies of meat … [and] lamb consumption in the United States continued to decline," he said.

"In sum, import restrictions have not helped domestic producers lift their prospects, and this is in the overall context of a booming U.S. economy," he said.

Mr. Thawley also discredited the U.S. commitment to free trade.

"The import restrictions invited questions from many Australians about the sincerity of the U.S. position on international trade," he said.

"The question was asked, 'Is the United States in favor of free trade only for itself and not for others?' "

Different under Bush

While Australia is angry with the Clinton administration over the lamb issue, relations could be better with a Bush White House, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.

He said George W. Bush has a strong commitment to free trade.

"I hope very much that during the course of next year, his first year, he will play an important role in getting a WTO round of negotiations going," Mr. Downer said, referring to the World Trade Organization.

"We can look pretty positively on Governor Bush in terms of trade liberalization."

Mr. Downer also expressed hopes of good security cooperation with a Bush administration.

"In a security sense, there will be a strengthening of the relationship," he said of Mr. Bush.

Civics lesson

The new deputy chief of mission at the South African Embassy, who arrived in Washington on Nov. 16, is in his fourth week of watching the disputed presidential election and enjoying every day of it.

Thandabantu Nhlapo, a former law professor at Cape Town University, sees the period as a national civics lesson, with the dueling lawyers, the political arguments, the demonstrations and the counts and recounts of the Florida ballots.

"I wish I'd brought a truckload of my students here," he said on a visit to The Washington Times yesterday.

Mr. Nhlapo noted that many South Africans find the American political system unusual because of its different layers of federal, state and local governments.

Mr. Nhlapo, who most recently served on South Africa's law reform commission, is new to foreign service but has already learned the first rule of diplomacy: Never be quoted commenting on another country's politics.

Asked whom South Africa would prefer to see in the White House, he deflected the question.

"South Africa expresses the hope that the new administration will raise Africa up on its agenda," he said.

Two to avoid

Americans should avoid traveling to Sudan and Afghanistan, the State Department said yesterday.

One travel notice said Sudan is unstable and the police are out of control.

Another notice cited threats from terrorists as the reason to stay away from Afghanistan.

On today's World page, the State Department's counterterrorism chief, Michael A. Sheehan, gives more details on how Afghanistan has become a "haven of lawlessness" under the ruling Taleban militia.

Mr. Sheehan testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime.

Sudan recently expelled an American diplomat and denounced Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice for an unauthorized visit to rebel-held areas of the country.

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