EU to seek WTO authorisation for new sanctions

I don’t know enough to make any major comments about this story, but it’s the sort of thing that should interest our readers.

A trade dispute between the US and the EU escalated today as Brussels asked the World Trade Organisation for authorisation to retaliate against an illegal US trade measure.

The EU is seeking to impose sanctions that could run to hundreds of millions of dollars of duties on US goods, with the aim of forcing Washington to revoke a scheme that has been ruled illegal by the WTO.

The dispute over the Byrd amendment is not on the same scale as the steel tariffs, but it illustrates the underlying trade tension between the two blocs, and it comes at a time when the US and the EU are trying to revive stalled world trade talks.

The Byrd amendment allows the US government to distribute proceeds from anti-dumping tariffs to American firms that complain of damage from foreign imports. The WTO made a final ruling in January 2003 that the provision violates trade rules and set a deadline of December 27 for it to be revised, but Washington has so far failed to comply.

It Was Easy to Miss…

but one of the most important decisions about the future of European security was announced Monday in Germany. Defense Minister Peter Struck has been on the airwaves and in the papers a great deal since the beginning of the year, talking about military reform. He’s been having a bit of a rough time of it. The Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung tartly noted that at the same time Struck was calling on the Bundeswehr to suit up for more demanding missions, he was announcing plans to cut the German armed forces? procurement over the next decade by considerably more than 20 billion euros. That’s more than a fistful, even by military standards. Predictably, there?s been a fuss, most loudly from armaments companies, saying that the planned cuts deny them the “planning security” that they had come to expect from the government. Second loudest has been the opposition, which has been doing its job by opposing the government’s plans.

But Struck’s pronouncements weren’t the important ones. The most important news about German defense, and thus European security, came from the Renate Schmidt, Minister for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. No, really.
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Links to comments

We like to keep on top of the latest in high tech here at AFOE. So, thanks to our crack AFOE research and development team, you can now create links directly to comments on this blog by using the URL you get by clinking on the comment’s data and time.

AFOE Labs appreciates the support it has received for this challenging, ground-breaking software engineering development project. Calpundit had nothing to with it. Honest.

I Don’t Understand Modern Conservatism

The recent biography of Mrs Thatcher by John Campbell (in particular volume one, The Grocer’s Daughter) did a good job of setting out just how much Hayek’s writings shaped Thatcher’s political outlook from her student days in Oxford onwards, in particular by paying close attention to her political speeches around 1950, when she was running for Parliament in Deptford, some of the few occasions in her early political career when she was making speeches without being bound by front bench discipline.

That part of the Right of the Conservative Party which is most keen to claim its legitimate political descent from Mrs Thatcher is most adamantly opposed to the European Union in general and British participation in the single European currency in particular.

I sometimes think that this should puzzle us more than it does…
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The Price of Obesity

Economist for Dean Lerxst gets hold of something really interesting in a post yesterday ( which Calpundit also picks up on). He draws our attention to the fact that some US economists have recently been arguing that there has been a significant rise in individuals claiming disability benefits and this has taken a large number of workers out of the labor force, thus – at a stroke – reducing the “official unemployment rate”. The research by Mark Duggan and David Autor is discussed in a NYT op ed by University of Chicago Professor Austan Goolsbee.

Lerxst also highlights the significant role obesity may play in this. He cites an article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal describing a new study by RAND Health economists showing that obesity may actually be the “primary” explanation for the rise in the disability rolls. According to Dana P. Goldman, director of health economics at Rand and the principal investigator on the study cited in the WSJ there is “evidence to support (the idea) that obesity may be a primary reason.”
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Fabian Funnies

I was reading the new almost-worthy-but-dull Fabian Society pamphlet by Gisela Stuart MP on “The Making of Europe’s Constitution” on a bus-ride yesterday.

“There were moments in the sixteen months I spent in close proximity with my fellow Europeans when I had great sympathy with the suggestion of my laptop spellcheck; which, whenever I typed in the word Giscard, replaced it with ‘discard’.”
But that’s the only highlight, I’m afraid.

Greetings from the Guest

As David mentions below, the kind people at Fistful… have invited me in and asked me to do a guestblogging stint, in the (vain) expectation that I might have something interesting to say about things European.

For people who haven’t stumbled across me before, I blog over at the Virtual Stoa, was the subject of a recent Normblog profile, and spend my days teaching politics at Magdalen College in Oxford — though my expertise, such as it is, is in topics in pre-20th century history of political thought rather than in anything useful (contemporary European politics and society, for example).

I’ve enjoyed reading Fistful… from time to time since its launch last year, and was very pleased to see A Fistful of Dynamite aka Duck, You Sucker, aka Once Upon a Time in the Revolution again over Christmas in Berkeley, CA. And I’m now the proud co-owner of an almost authentic-looking Sergio Leone-style duster coat, so I’m feeling especially qualified right now to contribute to the discussions here.

Before I close this introductory post, do check out, if you haven’t already, Scott Martens’s superlative summary of the argument of Karl Marx’s 1843 essay, On the Jewish Question, which appears in the comments to this recent post: it’s a patient and accurate summary of a complex and much-misunderstood text which deserves a bit more prominence than it gets buried away at the end of a long comments thread. Good stuff, Scott.

Right, more soon.

A good week

This week, A Fistful of Euros is very proud to present two new members of our team, Scott MacMillan, and Mrs Tilton. I trust they are already familiar to our regular readers, and their qualitifications speak for themselves.

A warm welcome to them both.

Also, this week we’re very happy to have the brilliant Chris Brooke as guest contributor. We’ll feature guests regurarly from now on.

Diversity Within Unity

Following Scotts recent post in the mailbox we have Amitai Etzioni drawing our attention to a piece he wrote on the same topic in the International Herald Tribune. His key point seems to be that it is important to “utterly reject the multicultural notion that we should abolish societal identities to accommodate the sensibilities of the newcomers”.

I appreciate the thrust of what Amitai is saying here, but I still think he is mistaken. Identities are not static, but fluid: they are processes. Our identities as much as the cells which compose our bodies are changing everyday. We do not need to abolish anything, but we do need to accept both the fact of and the need for change. To do otherwise would seem not to be living in Europe, but rather to be living in Denial. So in this context I would prefer to go down another road, that opened up by the French Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas: one of the measures of our degree of civilisation as a community is our open-ness to the other. This would be my main point of departure from the US notion of diversity, which for all its sophistocation and its appeal, is still feel IMHO far too structured by a US, non-US dichotomy: one that we here in Europe are in danger of assimilating. The limitations of such a failure to grasp the radical difference presented by ‘otherness’ can be found, for example, in the attitude to Japan (why can’t these Japanese just set up a normal capitalist system like everyone else does), in China (why don’t the Chinese simply rebel against all this centralised communist dictatorship stuff), or – dare I say it – in Iraq (why the hell don’t these guys just accept democracy).

What Levinas suggests is that we are setting up the problem in the wrong way. The other is just ‘other’. Our challenge is to accept this. To take the marriage (or co-habitation) model: love is not consuming the partner and turning them into a figment of your own desire. Love is accepting your partner as they are, warts and all, and loving them for what they are.

Ok this is strange stuff for an economist I know, but there it is. I have pasted an extract from Amitai’s piece below. There are lots of other arguments worthy of consideration, about schools about common language, about you name it. This discussion is important, say what you feel like saying, maybe he will join in.
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