- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

Unfree trade

Caribbean countries are complaining about U.S. trade practices that restrict their access to American markets while Washington preaches free trade to the poor nations in that region.

"One has to wonder why rich countries feel that subsidies are good for their producers but not for producers in poor countries," Ambassador Odeen Ishmael of Guyana said at a recent seminar on Caribbean trade.

He criticized the "heavily subsidized" U.S. rice industry as an example of the "unfair advantage" Washington gives to domestic growers.

"Obviously, such unfair competition by a developed economy at the expense of the smaller economies goes against the spirit of free trade," sad Mr. Ishmael, the most senior Caribbean ambassador in Washington.

Mr. Ishmael, also the coordinator of the diplomatic caucus of the nations of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), argued for "fair trade" as the United States and its southern neighbors negotiate a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

"For rich countries, subsidies are regarded as incentives, yet when poor countries try to do the same, the subsidies are regarded as handouts," he said.

Poor countries "face all sorts of economic pressures from the international financial institutions and rich donor countries, if they dare to subsidize their industries as some rich countries are doing," he told the seminar at Howard University.

Mr. Ishmael defended Caribbean import duties on American products as necessary to protect their markets until U.S. tariffs are lifted.

"For the Caricom countries, access to the U.S. market for their agricultural products, steel and textiles is essential for their economic survival," he said.


Tex-Mex diplomacy

President Bush ended speculation this week by nominating an old Texan political friend to serve as ambassador to Mexico.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza, also a former county judge, will replace Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow if he is confirmed by the Senate.

"Tony Garza has an in-depth understanding of the relationship between the United States and Mexico and its impact on the people of both nations," Mr. Bush said in announcing the nomination this week.

"He has served the people of Texas with honor and distinction and will be an outstanding representative of the United States."

Mr. Bush has known Mr. Garza since the latter's 1988 campaign for a county judgeship in south Texas.

Embassy Row reported last month that Mr. Garza was the likely candidate for the appointment. Texas newspapers were full of rumors of his expected nomination, and one Mexican newspaper reported in May that Mexican President Vicente Fox already had given diplomatic approval for Mr. Garza.


English vs. terrorists

In the war against terrorism in the Philippines, the United States is enlisting recruits who always dot their i's and cross their t's and never, ever, split an infinitive.

Washington is sending English teachers to the front.

"We'd like to see whether we could help revive an English-teaching program here," U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told reporters in Manila this week. "That's another way of fighting terrorism."

The ambassador said a similar program is in operation in Indonesia, another country plagued with Islamic terrorists. He did not say when the teachers would be recruited or where they would teach. (Embassy Row yesterday reported on another part of his speech in which he complained about government corruption, upsetting several leading politicians.)

"Education is very important in promoting and strengthening democracy and defeating the forces of radicalism that want to undermine democracy," Mr. Ricciardone said.

He noted the success of such programs at U.S. embassies during the Cold War.

"They spread materials that taught, of course, democracy, the history of democracy, constitutional issues and so forth," the ambassador said. "They helped us defeat communism, which was the threat against the previous generation. Now we face a new threat, an extremism of a different sort."

Terrorists pose a "threat to freedom where people actually teach ignorance. They teach hate. They teach that if someone is different, we should hate them and kill them," he said.

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