The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

New messenger, same mandate

Kevin P. Gallagher-- Kevin P. Gallagher is professor of international relations at Boston University and co-author of “The Enclave Economy: Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development in Mexico’s Silicon Valley” and “Putting Development First: The Importance of Policy Space at the WTO." The opinions expressed are his own. --

On the campaign trail, President-elect Barack Obama pledged to rethink U.S. trade policy.   The initial nomination of Xavier Becerra as United States Trade Representative was a signal that Obama will work to fulfill that promise. Congressman Becerra declined the offer and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk has been chosen to head the office instead.  Given Kirk’s enthusiastic support for NAFTA, he will receive close scrutiny as he takes over a USTR that has the mandate of rethinking U.S. trade policy.

Regardless of the messenger, Obama has pledged to fundamentally change U.S. trade policy.  To this end, there are four early priorities for Kirk and Obama: honor existing commitments under the WTO, press for an equitable completion of the Doha Round, conduct a thorough evaluation of major U.S. trade agreements, and enact comprehensive trade adjustment assistance legislation.

The immediate first step is to honor the WTO ruling that deemed that the $3.2 billion in annual cotton subsidies and $1.6 billion in export credits violate trade rules.  The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy estimates that U.S. cotton subsidies caused damages of $400 million between 2001 and 2003 alone for poor African cotton-producing countries, where more than 10 million people depend directly on the crop.

from The Great Debate:

NYMEX oil benchmark again in question

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist.  The views expressed are his own --

The record differential between the front-month and more liquid second-month contracts at expiry last week once again raised pointed questions about whether the NYMEX light sweet contract is serving as a good benchmark for the global oil market, or sending misleading signals about the state of supply and demand.

The expiring January 2009 contract ended down $2.35 on Friday at $33.87, while the more liquid February contract actually rose 69 cents to settle at $42.36 - an unprecedented contango from one month to the next of $8.49.

from FaithWorld:

Pope says saving heterosexuality like saving the rainforest

Pope Benedict took an unconventional approach today to stand up to what he sees as gender-bending, saying protecting heterosexuality was as important as saving the rainforest. (Photo: Pope Benedict addresses the Curia, 22 Dec 2008/Max Rossi)

"(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed," the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration."The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."

from FaithWorld:

Lots of advice for Obama on dealing with Muslims and Islam

President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia.  Some quite interesting comments have come in since then. (Photo: Obama image in Jakarta, 25 Oct 2008/Dadang Tri)

Two French academics, Islam expert Olivier Roy and political scientist Justin Vaisse argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday that Obama's premise of trying to reconcile the West and Islam is flawed:

from The Great Debate:

Bush’s auto plan will test Obama’s union loyalties

morici-- Peter Morici is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.  The opinions expressed are his own. --

President Bush has agreed to lend GM and Chrysler $17.4 billion on the condition these firms complete a plan to accomplish financial viability.

from The Great Debate:

How will the Fed get off its Tiger?

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

The Federal Reserve and U.S. economy have two considerable risks now that quantitative easing is at hand: keeping the dollar from a disorderly decline and figuring out how to dismount from the tiger.

The Fed has cut interest rates to a range of zero to 0.25 percent and said it would use "all available tools" to get the economy growing again, including buying mortgage debt as well as exploring direct purchases of Treasuries.

from The Great Debate:

China needs to be bold to ride out the storm

Wei Gu-- Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own. --

Beijing risks inflicting even more damage to the world economy by reflexively slowing market reforms in response to the financial crisis. But China's leaders should quicken, not slow, the pace of reform to help it ride through the storm.

This December marks the 30th anniversary of China's decision to embrace market liberalization but with growth becoming the No.1 concern in China, reforms have taken a back seat.

from The Great Debate:

Electric cars will not cure environmental woes

diana-furchtgott-roth_great_debate

-- Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The opinions expressed are her own. --

The world is falling in love with plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. President-elect Obama wants to put 1 million on the road by 2015. GM features them, particularly the Chevy Volt, in its new business plan for a debut in 2010. The EU wants them to shrink greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 by 20% from 1990 levels. This week the Chinese auto company BYD began selling the world’s first commercially-available plug-in hybrid sedan.

from Ask...:

How will the record OPEC supply cut affect consumers?

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed on Wednesday to make its deepest output cut ever to counter slumping demand and falling oil prices.  The output cut has been received with cautious optimism by analysts.

Some say that the price of oil will fall further, while others say $40 a barrel was the lowest it will go. "If you look at the market, prices are going up immediately," said Frank Schallenberger, head of commodity research at Landesbank. "I really think this is the end of a bear market. $40 was the bottom."

from The Great Debate:

The green-collar economy

van-jonesVan Jones is founding president of Green For All, and author of “The Green Collar Economy," In this interview with PopTech! he describes a plan to create millions of new jobs that can’t be outsourced, wean the country off its dependence on foreign oil, and take bold steps to address the climate crisis.

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