Economic Protectionism Threatens National Security

Economic protectionism does more than threaten economic recovery these days, it also threatens national security. Economists agree that economic protectionism is a losing strategy for strengthening GDP. Barriers to free trade and commerce actually harm native economies by proliferating protectionism globally as nations respond by passing defensive barriers of their own.

But the domestic economy is not the only thing threatened by some protectionism under consideration in the US Congress right now. The Kansas City Star reports, a new trade measure proposed by the White House would provide for "Reconstruction Opportunity Zones" in Pakistan, a lynchpin in the war on terror.

The administration strongly supports the zones, which if successful, could generate employment and help quell the terrorist threats to the U.S. and its forces fighting the Taliban-al-Qaida insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.

"If this (bill) was amended, it could really turn things around," said Afan Aziz, the chairman of the Northwest Frontier Province wing of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. "It could, we estimate, provide employment for 700,000 to 800,000 people, and think of all the families that would support. Then, no one would want to turn to the gun."

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for the region, said the last month the aim of the bill is to rebuild the lives of refugees displaced by the Pakistan army's clashes with local Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida. "An opportunity for them to have this kind of chance through this bill is all the more important," Holbrooke said.

Of course, domestic interests groups are up in arms about the threat of having to compete on a level playing field, and are putting their own advantage above that of the security of the nation.

On the other side of the debate are U.S. textile manufacturers, who said that any easing of the restrictions approved by the House last month will threaten American workers in a sector that's already lost tens of thousands of jobs.

As we have learned from the past few years, economic desperation too often plays a role in the recruiting of low-level terrorists. The recent confession of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a gunman in last year's terrorist assault on Mumbai, shows that he was lured into the world of Islamic terrorism by the idea that he would make more money.

"I don't think I am innocent," he told the court Monday, and then proceeded to tell the story of how he went from being a poorly paid shop assistant in small-town Pakistan to the face of the carnage in Mumbai.

At first, he said, all he wanted was to be a bandit. So he and a friend headed for Rawalpindi, a city near Pakistan's capital and the country's military headquarters. They searched for bearded men, figuring Islamist militants could train them to use weapons and fight, according to the court's record of Mr. Kasab's confession, which offered no indication of when the events took place.

Allowing Pakistan to grow its domestic economy and provide jobs and economic opportunity for Pakistanis is a vital effort to building on recent successes and defeating militants. Failing to pass the measure to provide "Reconstructino Opportunity Zones" in Pakistan is just too great.

Tags: economics, free trade, pakistan, South Asia, Taliban (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

to compete on a level playing field?

Usually, I like your diaries, but this case, that statement is complete and utter horse-puckey.

This country has literally been morally wounded by a concept of "what is good for the corporate bottom line" is good for everyone.

One of the greatest slight of hands of the last 20 years was getting ordinary working folks, people in Ohio and Michigan, to vote for Republicans who OPENLY ADVOCATED shipping their jobs overseas....

I am NOT against this kind of foriegn policy idea, because building up these countries is better then bombing them into liking us.

But, tread lightly when you talk about protectionism et all...

My job involves travel on business, and I have seen entire sectors of the country where old line manufacturing has left AND IS NEVER COMING BACK.

This was done for the benefit of the corporate good, with the assitance of an administration who cared ONLY what Big Biz wanted.

So, stop with the Bullshit. Free Trade is NOT free, it's a catch phrase, and a right wing meme.

Exporting our jobs for the benefit of corporations is NOT good for America OR it's long term security.

The issue in this diary may be a special case.

But you started with the typical corporate BS Truism that are just propaganda, and most of us have figured that out.

by WashStateBlue 2009-07-23 08:09AM | 0 recs
You have a point

But your point would be reinforced if you were to also support, for instance, free trade within Pakistan...for Afghan goods.

As you are probably aware, the issue of "transit rights" for Afghan goods has been very thorny within Pakistan. Pakistan does not allow for the transit of Afghan goods to India, which is a substantial factor in Afghan poverty... and (going by your logic) substantially responsible for the extremism there.

Now, I dont know if you do support the transit rights....just that if you do support it, it would have been nice to have mentioned it in this diary.

by Ravi Verma 2009-07-23 08:14AM | 0 recs
Re: You have a point

LotusBloom -- thanks, great point.

by southasiawatch 2009-07-23 10:29AM | 0 recs
Protectionism gen'ly associated w/ strong growth

Off the top of my head:

The U.S.: 1865 to 1945
Germany: 1870s to 1970s
France: 1870s to 1970s
Most of the rest of Western Europe: 1890s to 1970s
Japan: 1870s to 1990s
Most of East Asia: 1960s to 1990s
China: 1980s to now.
Most of Latin America: 1960s to NAFTA.

And then you have relatively slower growth in each of those countries/regions with the onset of free trade. Well, I'm sure most economists are still right in theory and I'm overly focused on boring facts.

by fairleft2 2009-07-23 01:10PM | 0 recs

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