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June 28, 2005

GMO Ban Holds in Europe


Responding to ongoing controversy over genetically modified food in Europe, the EU’s Council of Ministers voted to uphold a ban on engineered corn and rapeseed that has been maintained since 1997. Five countries—Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg—had banned the varieties between 1997 and 2000, and were under pressure by the European Commission to lift their bans. But the Council of Ministers voted 22-3 to uphold the ban on June 24. The move made front page news across Europe.

In Belgium, the main national daily Le Soir headlined on page 1: “GMO’s are now growing on unstable ground.” The vote carries powerful weight—as it upholds the ability of individual member states to impose national bans on gmo’s based on “public health and safety” considerations, which the Commission had wanted to restrict when it comes to gmo’s.

The vote, according to the French daily Liberation, was a “complete disavowal of the opinion of the EU’s Agency on Food Safety (AESA), which had declared in July 2004 that gmo’s presented “no risk for health or the environment.” The Council of Ministers disagreed—representing a major victory for environmental groups in Europe, which have long been lobbying against the dissemination of gmo’s in Europe.

The vote represented a major blow to U.S. efforts to obtain EU clearance for the sale of gmo seeds. The world’s major producer is Monsanto, based in St. Louis. But it was Monsanto’s actions that helped build the heavy majority against further gmo introductions across the continent, as Liberation reported.

Last month, as we posted on this site as we reported on this site, a study conducted by Monsanto scientists in Germany was leaked to the press—and suggested that a new corn seed it hoped to introduce could have toxic effects on test animals. Monsanto’s unwillingness to share the information with the public fueled skepticism as to its transparency with the public. By the time a German court forced Monsanto to reveal the results, the tide—already highly skeptical—had turned. Monsanto’s bid to introduce three other corn varieties, and an effort by the German company Bayer to put a corn and rapeseed variety on the market, was skewered.

The issue is continuing to cause discord--as these and other European bans are now subject to ongoing challenge by the United States and other nations in the Worled Trade Organization.

Posted 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2005

Mixed reaction to CNOOC bid

From China Daily

BEIJING, June 24 -- The US$18.5 billion bid by China National Offshore Oil Company Limited (CNOOC Ltd), China's No 3 oil producer, for Unocal drew mixed reactions from investors and credit-rating firms yesterday.

Shares of CNOOC inched up by 1.2 per cent to HK$4.20 (53 US cents) in the Hong Kong stock market yesterday, as analysts said the long-awaited offer was better than expected.

But in London, credit-rating firm Moody's placed the company's A2 issuer rating on review yesterday for possible downgrade. Moody's officials said they were concerned about the huge debt CNOOC would incur to finance the merger.

"In addition, the review for downgrade reflects the considerable integration challenges that CNOOC Ltd is expected to face in bedding down such a large acquisition, given its lack of track record in this area," Moody's said in a report.

CNOOC's competitor for Unocal, the ninth-largest oil firm in the United States, is Chevron, the second-largest petroleum company in the United States.

The price of CNOOC shares in Hong Kong tumbled earlier this month when the company announced it would counter Chevron's bid, made in April. Investors had believed that CNOOC's offer price was too high and that Unocal, the same size as CNOOC, is too big to swallow.

Yesterday CNOOC offered US$67 in cash per Unocal share after a marathon board meeting on Wednesday night.

Analysts said the long-awaited offer was better than expected as the proposed cost is "surprisingly" cheap.

The company said it would finance the acquisition with its own cash resources of US$3 billion and with loans from its parent company, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

The financing cost is cheap because the interest of US$7 billion in loans provided by the parent company could be low, said Liu Gu, an analyst with Guotai Jun'an Securities (Hong Kong) Corp.

The deal, if it goes ahead, would increase CNOOC's revenue by roughly 122 per cent compared with last year, according to the company's telephone press conference yesterday.

Predictions say the merger would more than double CNOOC's oil and gas production and increase its reserves by nearly 80 per cent to 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

"Both Unocal and CNOOC are already primary Asia business. Together we will be one of the regional leaders," CNOOC Chief Financial Officer Yang Hua said yesterday at the presentation.

The deal will also help CNOOC to overtake Sinopec as the second-largest oil company of any kind in China after PetroChina.

CNOOC's executives said the merger would help it achieve a more balanced oil and gas portfolio, enabling it to reduce the risk from the fluctuation of crude oil prices.

In return, China's fast-growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) market will allow Unocal to accelerate the exploration and development of gas resources and position it as a long-term supplier to the Bontang LNG plant in Indonesia, the executives said.

"This is a superior and friendly offer to Unocal's shareholders, and we believe they will seriously consider it," CNOOC Chairman Fu Chengyu said.

CNOOC decided not to bid for Unocal at the last minute in March, reportedly because board members were split on whether the proposed bid was in the company's best interests.

But Fu said the company scrapped the proposed bid in March as it needed more evaluation time.

"Now we all believe it is a good project, and we have won unanimous support from the board members," he said.

Meanwhile, Chevron may also raise the terms of its bid to forestall CNOOC's move.

"The US$18.5 billion may just be a start; there will be a second round of wrangling when CNOOC will probably lift its bid to US$20 billion," said a senior official with PetroOverseas who declined to be named.

Posted 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

CNOOC Ltd., fully prepared to participate in CFIUS review of Unocal

BEIJING, June 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Fu Chengyu, Chairman and CEO of China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Ltd., said Friday that his corporation is braced to participate in a review of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) of its merging transaction of Unocal.

In a public statement, Fu said that CNOOC Ltd. is pleased that Unocal has indicated its readiness to engage in the talks concerning CNOOC Ltd.'s all cash offer and CNOOC Ltd. has been prepared to start immediately.

CNOOC Ltd., China's largest offshore oil and gas producer, announced early Thursday that it has proposed a merger with Unocal,a major U.S. oil company, offering 67 US dollars in cash per Unocal share.

The offer values Unocal at about 18.5 billion US dollars, representing a premium for Unocal's shareholders of about 1.5 billion US dollars over the value of Chevron Corporation's offer, based on its closing price on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wednesday.

As having indicated upon announcing the bid, Fu reiterated thatCNOOC Ltd. believe this offer brings superior value to Unocal shareholders.

"It is important to know that 70 percent of Unocal's current reserves are located in Asia, and that is one of the reasons why this transaction makes sound business sense for our company," he said.

In the statement Fu reaffirmed that substantially all of the oil and gas produced by Unocal in the U.S. will continue to be sold in the U.S., and the development of properties in the Gulf ofMexico will provide further supplies of oil and gas for American markets.

Fu also restressed the commitment on behalf of CNOOC Ltd. to retain the jobs of substantially all of Unocal's employees, as opposed to Chevron's plan to lay off employees, especially in the Unite States.

According to him, in preparing the bid, CNOOC Ltd. always anticipated that its merger with Unocal would be reviewed by the CFIUS and they are fully prepared to participate in such a review with assurances to Unocal to address concerns relating to energy security and ownership of Unocal assets located in the U.S.

CNOOC Ltd. has said they are prepared to sell or take other actions with respect to Unocal's minority pipeline interests and storage assets as long as such a sale does not cause substantial economic harms to Unocal, and will reiterate this commitment to the CFIUS committee at proper time, said Fu.

"We are also open to discussing with CFIUS placing non-exploration and production assets under American management through arrangements that CFIUS has approved often in the past andare prepared to enter into talks with the CFIUS committee as soon as the committee is ready to do so," Fu said. Enditem

Posted 05:58 PM | Comments (0)


From CNOOC corporation news,
CNOOC Briefing Office

China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is a state-owned Chinese company, which is developing into an international first-class energy company with big and quick strides and full of determined and dauntless gumption and youthful spirit...
(Quoted from CNOOC website)

(23 June 2005) – CNOOC Limited announces today that it has proposed a merger with Unocal Corporation (“Unocal”; NYSE: UCL) offering US$67 in cash per Unocal share. The offer values Unocal at apsal is a superior offer for Unocal shareholders. The deal is fully financed, subject to customary closing conditions, and priced in line with market values for comparable businesses. We hope to be able to enter into a diaproximately US$18.5 billion and represents a premium for Unocal's shareholders of approximately $1.5 billion over the value of Chevron Corporation's (“Chevron”) offer based Chevron's closing price on NYSE on 21 June 2005.

In a letter sent to the Chairman of Unocal, CNOOC Limited Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Fu Chengyu stressed that the approach is friendly and the company is seeking a consensual transaction with Unocal. This proposal is being submitted in accordance with the sale process initiated by Unocal.

CNOOC Limited believes that the combined company would have a leading position in the Asian energy market and an expanded role in the development of China's liquefied natural gas (LNG) market. The combination is expected to more than double CNOOC Limited's oil and gas production and increase its reserves by nearly 80% to approximately four billion barrels of oil equivalent. Approximately 70% of Unocal's current proved oil and gas reserves are in Asia and the Caspian region. It is expected that the merged company would also have an improved oil and gas balance, with total reserves of approximately 53% oil and 47% natural gas.

The transaction is expected to be EPS and cash flow per share accretive in the first full year after completion. CNOOC Limited anticipates that it will maintain a strong, investment-grade credit rating.

Mr. Fu Chengyu, CNOOC Limited Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said: “This friendly, all-cash propologue with Unocal soon and reach agreement on a consensual transaction.”

“For our shareholders, there is a strong business rationale for the combination, as CNOOC Limited and Unocal would form one of the leading international E&P companies and become one of the premier players in the Asian energy market. It would rebalance our portfolio to include more natural gas reserves and strengthen our regional presence by combining with Unocal's complementary Asian asset base. I am confident that the merger will increase shareholder value.”
Mr. Fu added, “We also expect this transaction to be accretive and that we will maintain a strong, investment-grade credit rating.”

Commitments concerning Unocal's U.S. assets

CNOOC Limited is committed to fully integrating Unocal's strong management team and workforce into the combined company. The transaction will not adversely affect the U.S. oil and gas market since Unocal's U.S. oil and gas production will continue to be sold in the U.S. Unocal's U.S. oil and gas production accounts for less than 1% of total U.S. oil and gas consumption.
In connection with this offer, CNOOC Limited has provided the following assurances:
·CNOOC Limited is willing to continue Unocal's practice of selling and marketing all or substantially all of the oil and gas produced from Unocal's U.S. properties in U.S. markets.
·CNOOC Limited will seek to retain substantially all Unocal employees, including those in the U.S. This is in contrast to the existing Chevron proposal where Chevron has already announced plans to extract hundreds of millions of dollars of cost savings from the merger annually, including from employee layoffs.
· CNOOC Limited hopes and will endeavor to persuade members of Unocal's executive and operational management to join the management team of the combined company.
·CNOOC Limited will accept and agree to the terms of Unocal's recent FTC settlement relating to its patent rights in reformulated gasoline.
·CNOOC Limited is confident that it will obtain Exon-Florio approval. To this end, CNOOC Limited is willing to divest or take other actions with respect to any of Unocal's non-E&P assets in North America to the extent such divestitures and actions would not give rise to a material adverse effect on Unocal, including considering special management arrangements for Unocal's U.S. non-controlling, minority pipeline interests and its storage assets.

Financing structure

The financing is structured to ensure that the company will retain a strong balance sheet and maintain future financial flexibility. The transaction will be financed from the following sources:
· CNOOC Limited's cash resources of more than US$3 billion;
· Bridge loans provided by Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan totaling US$3 billion, which are expected to be replaced by permanent debt financing in the form of bonds at or shortly after completion;
· Bridge loans provided by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in the amount of US$6 billion, which are expected to be replaced by permanent debt financing in the form of term loans at or shortly after completion;
· A long-term, subordinated loan provided by CNOOC Limited's majority shareholder, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, of US$4.5 billion, which is expected to receive equity treatment for credit ratings purposes; and
· A subordinated bridge loan provided by CNOOC Limited's majority shareholder of US$2.5 billion, which is expected to be refinanced with equity within two years.
CNOOC Limited has received commitment letters from each of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, ICBC and CNOOC Limited's majority shareholder for the financing noted above.

Strengths and opportunities

CNOOC Limited believes that the merged group would benefit greatly from the companies' complementary strengths.

· Platform for growth: This combination is expected to more than double CNOOC Limited's production and increase reserves by nearly 80%. CNOOC Limited believes that Unocal has an attractive portfolio of development projects with a substantial growth profile.

· An Asia-focused energy company: Both companies are already primarily Asian businesses – together they will be a leader in one of the fastest growing regions in the world. It is estimated that 85% of the combined reserves of the companies are located in Asia and the Caspian region.

· A leading regional gas business: Sixty percent of Unocal's reserves are natural gas (mostly in Asia). CNOOC Limited currently has 35% of its reserves in gas; it is estimated that the combined company will have a more balanced portfolio with reserves of 53% oil and 47% natural gas. CNOOC Limited believes that an improved oil and gas balance will reduce its exposure to commodity price cyclicality.

CNOOC Limited believes that China's LNG market potential will allow it to accelerate the exploration and development of gas resources and position it as a long-term supplier to the Bontang LNG plant. This is an important part of the environmental drive to promote cleaner burning fuels.

· Optimizing investment programs: CNOOC Limited expects to generate considerable synergies from the optimization of the combined exploration and capital investment programs of the two companies.

· Proven management and world-class technical expertise: CNOOC Limited believes that Unocal has an excellent operational management team, and CNOOC Limited can also draw on Unocal's deepwater drilling and production expertise.


CNOOC Limited is advised by Goldman Sachs (Asia) L.L.C. and J.P. Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd. N M Rothschild & Sons (Hong Kong) Limited also assisted the board's independent non-executive directors in their review of the transaction.

More information about the transaction can be found through CNOOC Limited's website (www.cnoocltd.com) and through CNOOC Limited's transaction microsite (www.transactioninfo.com/cnooc).

Posted 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2005

GMO Storm Coming...

News just out of Europe suggest serious obstacles ahead in the longstanding U.S. effort to pave the way for acceptance of genetically modified crops. The Independent in the UK reports that a study conducted by Monsanto itsself--the company dominates the international market in gmo's---suggests that rats fed a diet heavy in geneticaqlly engineered corn variety developed alterations in their organs--including smaller kidneys--and changes in the composition of their blood.

This report promises to have an impact that will continue to ripple across the continent and the world. Already, the U.S. government as staked a lot of political capital on fighting the European's more cautious approach to gmos. While in the US, they're officially considered no different than any other crop, in Europe they're approved on a seed by seed basis....and this latest finding leaked to the Independent builds on fears that we haven't yet known about gmo's may be dangerous.

It can't help with U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Europeans on a host of trade-releated issues, as the US already has a WTO challenge in the works to a previous generation of EU challenges to gmo's. And its become a foreign policy issue of major significance as countries around the world reject American corn exports for fear of contaminating their own food supply.


Posted 07:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2005

Jackson’s trial as an American microcosm?

News of Michael Jackson acquital were everywhere in European and Latin American media, but surprsingly few comentaries were made. French and Spanish media, in particular, ran stories on U.S. public opinion for which he remains guilty. They picked up the fact that the boy whose accusations were the grounds of the trial does not understand the verdict and is now depressed. Many published stories on declarations according to which the actor would not sleep with boys any more. A way for skeptical Europeans to underline the fact that he actually did exactly that.

The Guardian (U.K.) published an interesting comment by writer John Harris under the title: Drowned in a pervasive moral murk.

“Even if you wanted to affect an interest in the case as some crystallisation of wider social currents, there wasn't much to hang on to. According to Joan Smith in the New Statesman, Jackson is now "a symbol of the way in which a nation founded on a dream is retreating into the realm of fantasy" - which is elegantly put, but not exactly enlightening. "American society has been sliced open, not just to the bone but to entrails swollen with half-digested, rotting waste," wrote Barbara Amiel in the Sunday Telegraph (considering Jackson's possible guilt, she went on: "Child molestation of any sort is to be deplored, but ... in the absence of penetration, what actual harm has he done?" - that should get Lord Black's dinner guests in an entertaining lather).

The theory of the Jackson trial as an American microcosm, however, seems like a non-starter. Whether the freakish world into which it peered says anything about Main Street USA seems doubtful. Certainly, there are no potent racial narratives à la OJ Simpson; at most, events have simply underlined the truism that dysfunction gets passed down the generations, and that money serves to inflate it.”

Posted 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2005


Donald Rumsfeld talks about what he thinks the world thinks about the United States as well as some other foreign policy issues.

"I think the US is notably unskilful in our communications and our public diplomacy," he said in Washington.

He said that there are always entities trying to bring down the world's most powerful states and referred to Arab media such as Al-Jazeera.

"You just can't hear day after day after day after day things like that that often aren't true, with a lack of balance, and not come away thinking, gee, that must not be a very good country," he said.

Rumsfeld points to image problem
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has told the BBC his country needs to do a "better job" at communicating its policies to the rest of the world.

"I think the US is notably unskilful in our communications and our public diplomacy," he said in Washington.

He made a robust defence of the US role in Iraq, saying it was now up to the Iraqi people to restore order.

On Guantanamo Bay, he said the prison's reputation was "unfortunate" but its existence was necessary for security.

"No one wishes to have a facility like that, no one wishes to have to detain people," he told Sir David Frost in a special interview for BBC Newsnight's Tuesday edition.

However, conditions there were humane, he said, and any guards who had "misbehaved" had been punished.

"The people in Gitmo... 99% have the best food probably, the best medical treatment, they've ever received in their lives," the defence secretary added.

Image problems

People always set out to "bring down or tweak" the world's most powerful states, he continued, citing coverage of the US on foreign media such as Arab TV channel al-Jazeera.

"You just can't hear day after day after day after day things like that that often aren't true, with a lack of balance, and not come away thinking, gee, that must not be a very good country," said Mr Rumsfeld.

Despite its image problems abroad, the US was still the country that "people want to come to, to live and to work".

Asked about relations with other world powers, Mr Rumsfeld predicted China would loosen up its political system within 15 years to match its economic reforms.

On Russia, he suggested Moscow's arms deals with countries like Venezuela and its ties with Syria were damaging its business reputation.

"Right now, Russia is making, in my view, some decisions which are... statistically... leading to a reduction in foreign direct investment," he remarked.

You can watch the interview on Newsnight on BBC2 at 2230 BST

Story from BBC NEWS:

Posted 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2005

One “non” two crises

The French “non” looks very much like good news for the Francophobes. And in a sense it is.

Chirac, who made so much noise in his opposition to Bush’s war in Iraq, has been discredited. He looks dumb for losing an election that he called, and his legitimacy is now questionable. His choice of the Napoleonic Dominique de Villepin as prime minister certainly puts his most vocal mouthpiece during the war as second in command. But one doubts that Villepin’s oratorical talent will be more successful at suppressing French anger (with which he is so little connected), than it was in containing Washington.

France’s credibility in Europe will suffer. New alliances will be drawn. And if one considers that Tony Blair will act as EU President for six months starting on July 1st, the stage seems ready for a strengthening of pro-Americans and a weakening of those who made the case for a more independent Europe.

A comment posted on the conservative blog Little Green Footballs sums it up: “So, I guess the whole counterweight idea is off, eh Chirac? /gloating laughter.”

At a deeper level, the “non” is a victory of a certain form of nationalism that Europeans had made some progress in eradicating, but which Americans still cherish (see Toni Negri’s interview in Libération).

There is more: Schröder, another opponent of the war, seems to be close to the exit door. Berlusconi will do anything to conserve his post. The Euro has taken serious blows. After the Dutch “nee” the constitution in its present state looks dead.

Europe is weakened and in crisis. Conservative Americans might rejoice. But they should not rejoice for too long. Here are three reasons why.

First, contrary to the notion that a pro-European “yes” would automatically have been anti-American the “non” should be seen as a strong rebuttal of globalization with an American face. Mark Anderson says it clearly in the June 2nd issue of his Strategic News Service newsletter (subscription required): “The French seem to equate their new proposed constitution not only with Globalization, but, therefore, with the U.S. A vote Non is a vote against the U.S., which, as any good Francophile knows, is almost always a sure bet.”

Second, as Federico Rampini has commented, “A weaker Europe is no good news for the US” for the very good reason that Europe is its closest ally. Only a very shortsighted view of the world could lead anyone to think differently.

The third reason for not popping open the Champagne is that there is not one crisis but two.The second one could be so bad that stability, this sacred value of traditional foreign policy, could be at stake. Even those who despise it should pay attention.

France does not seem to be able to adjust to the changing world. This is true both in Thatcherian and in progressive terms. Structural reforms are not implemented, and the famous “social model” is not working anymore. Competitiveness is low. Innovation is stalled. Higher education is in crisis. Social segregation is on the rise. Identity is confused. Fear of openness to the world is high and racism has played a role among some of last month’s “non” voters.

Elites appear to be paralyzed. Unable to reform the country in a meaningful way, Chirac should have quit to leave room for change. Instead, he has appointed a new Prime Minister who has never faced electors and who only has a little over a year to do anything. And he won’t because everybody knows that structural reforms when they work require time to show their benefits. Doing anything now would mean risking the 2007 presidential election.

On the other side, the Socialist Party is highly divided and seems to be “on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” according to Arnaud Montebourg, one of its leaders. Nobody will laugh and this drama has no Almódovar to direct it.

Most commentaries agree in seeing the “non” as a rejection of the elites by the people. But the vote goes much further than a rebuff merely of Chirac and his government. Party bosses and militants, most media, a significant number of union leaders, most highly educated people, were in favor of a “oui”. Nevertheless, the “non” won overall, with impressive margins in rural areas, among those affected by unemployment, and among factory workers and employees.

Social unrest is a possibility.

It is already there in one of its political forms if one is to believe Nicolas Baverez, a French lawyer and commentator, author of a book titled "The Fall of France." He is quoted in the New York Times as seeing in the vote "an insurrection, a democratic intifada." that reflects the "despair and fears of the French."

We should not forget that France has shown over centuries that it does not know well how to adjust peacefully--as 1789 and 1958, when de Gaulle returned over the decolonization of Algeria--have shown. But adjust it must.

The incapacity of governing classes to govern when the people are fed up and angry is a classic formula for upheaval. To be sure, it is doubtful that a population that favors security, a 35hour work week and 2 months vacation per year would opt for revolution. And no movement nor leaders are advocating overthrowing the state.

The most likely outcome seems to be some degree of chaos, authoritarian rule or both… and it could be contagious.
Is this really good news?

Posted 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2005

From Giacomo Chiozza on Anti-Americanism

Giacomo Chiozza is a post-doctoral fellow at Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University. He will join the faculty in the Department of Political Science at UC-Berkeley in the Fall of 2005. In this letter, Chiozza answers three questions posed by Worldandus.

WorldAndUS: Why is it interesting to study perceptions of the US in the world (or anti-Americanism)?

GC -- Anti-Americanism appears to be a pervasive phenomenon of our times. But despite all the attention that it receives in the media, in the statements of political leaders, and among policy pundits, it still remains a poorly understood phenomenon. We should first acknowledge that anti-Americanism subsumes patterns of behavior and attitudinal stances that span the entire spectrum from the murderous hatred of the 9/11 hijackers to the fleeting and superficial opinions of ordinary people captured in opinion polls. And we should also acknowledge that when we say America, we evoke a large array of images, sentiments, aspirations, and ideals. This combination of competing and contradicting feelings makes the study of anti-Americanism particularly interesting.

A second set of reasons should also be considered. When we study international politics, we focus on the distribution of power and the patterns of interests. These two variables indeed help us understand a great deal of what happens in the international arena. But, as we try to understand the features and characteristics of the American world order, we very well observe that such an international order entails more than power and interests. It entails a normative and ideational dimension. The study of foreign attitudes towards the United States allows us to grasp such an ideational and normative dimension insofar as it tells us what is accepted and what is rejected, under what political conditions, by ordinary people.

-- WorldAndUs: Which effects might be expected from rising anti-Americanism?

GC -- We don't really know much about the political consequences of anti-Americanism. Conjectures abound about how popular opposition to the United States would affect the ability of the United States to pursue major policy initiatives and how such an opposition would create an international political context detrimental to American security. Several scholars have pointed out how the exceptional position of the United States in the current international system is buttressed by a special feature of America's, its soft power, to use Joseph Nye's catchy expression. If popular anti-Americanism is mounting, it might very well undermine American soft power, one of the pillars of the American world order. But, I think, we should avoid the temptation to draw immediate and linear connections between mass level negative attitudes towards the United States and the state choices in the international arena.

-- WorldAndUs: How is it possible to study the evolving nature of this phenomenon in a way so that it can be used as a policy tool?

GC -- When we think of the policy-implications of the scientific and academic research on anti-Americanism, we have to keep two aspects into consideration.

On the one hand, we have the aspiration to a "Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind," which is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

On the other hand, we have the statements of policy makers in the realpolitik tradition, such as Dean Acheson, who argued about 40 years ago that American political leaders should disregard any infatuation with the image of America abroad and, instead, place the course of America's foreign policy on the firm ground of the pursuit of American national interest. In more recent times, the neoconservative intellectuals who have framed American foreign policy under the reign of George W. Bush have made a similar argument and claimed that America should be "unapologetic" and not concerned about the views of foreign publics.

In other words, the policy implications of the study of anti-Americanism are indeed a politically contested battleground. But, regardless of the view we adopt, the knowledge produced by systematic analyses of anti-Americanism would have much more relevance if it followed from well-crafted research design. All too often the treatises on anti-Americanism simply "sample on the dependent variable," that is, select only instances of opposition to America for their analysis. In so doing, they do not show how mass attitudes vary over space and time and over the infinite features of the United States.

Once we start to analyze the rich variation in how America is perceived and appreciated abroad, we can start having a more realistic understanding of the phenomenon. We can start understand what exactly riles opponents and detractors of America, and what about America appeals to so many people. No sound policy advice can follow from analyses that only focus on the "hate" part, and miss out that America is also much loved as well.

Posted 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2005

French “no” impacts Europe-U.S.A. relationship

In Tuesday’s Italian newspapers the main news related to France rejecting of the European Constitution seems to concern the European euro. In fact, according to the economic newspaper Il Sole-24, in the change with the dollar our currency has sunk yesterday to 1,25, whereas in the past it always maintained itself between 1.35/ 1.40.

If it will remain so in the future, this gap might seriously impact European economy, in particular import-export balance if we consider that in the first hours the European Stock Exchange suffered from a consistent loss.

The economist Giuseppe Turani, however, optimistically writes in La Repubblica that in the next few months there will not be any serious financial earthquake. On the contrary it is expected that some bad news from the States concerning the real estate market and the hedge funds may start arriving towards the end of June. What might again enhance the European currency.

As to Italy’s political reactions to French “no”, almost all leftist newspapers, particularly those of extreme left like “Il Manifesto” and “Liberazione” consider the this vote as “ the victory of mass democracy against the excess of market liberalization and globalization”.

To this purpose it is also worth remembering that, on the occasion of last Bush’s visit in Europe and his speech criticizing the Soviet occupation followed by the Yalta Treaty, Armando Cossutta, president of the extreme left party Comunisti Italiani, interviewed by Giuliano Ferrara for La7tv daily broadcast “ottoemezzo”, declared that a strong EU should unite with Russia to fight against American imperialism.

For opposite reasons also right and centre-right newspapers like Libero are satisfied by this vote: the “no” expresses the rejection of the European common currency, the Euro, as well as the rejection of Romano Prodi (leader of the Left coalition) who strongly sustained it. Moreover the French vote, turning itself in favour of Tony Blair’s policy, is by consequence in favour of the United States.

In particular Il Tempo , while confronting the advantages that this vote gives to the U.S. and the dis-advantages for Russia, writes: the French “no” may weaken Putin’s partnership with his friend Chirac.

Posted 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

Hands Across the Ocean

Supposedly, the gap between the United States and Europe has never been bigger. But for anyone who’s spent any time talking to anti-immigrant activists in the U.S. these days, the parallels with the attitudes of the French and Dutch “no” voters are striking.

Low-wage competition, cultural subversion, Third-World criminality…the fears resound in an echo chamber that stretches from Utrecht to Raleigh, from Denver to Nancy.

It would be as big a mistake to exaggerate the resemblances as it is to ignore them. Jean-Marie Le Pen’s closest U.S. equivalent, Patrick Buchanan, is a marginal figure and will remain one. And the North Africans of Holland and France are pushed to the edge of those societies in a way that America’s Latinos, even the illegal ones, are not.

And yet…when a politician as shrewd and determined as Hillary Clinton makes clear that she has zero sympathy for illegal immigrants, when George W. Bush all but abandons his plans for comprehensive immigration reform ( “I'll continue working on it. You don't have my pledge that Congress will act, because I'm not a member of the legislative branch,” he said at a meeting with Mexico’s Vicente Fox last March), and when the anti-immigrant “real ID” bill sails through Congress, it’s fair to conclude that the politicians are getting nervous.

The idea that the rich favor illegal immigration because it provides cheap labor, including nannies and gardeners is heard frequently in the U.S. these days. It is just true enough that the argument can’t be dismissed out of hand – much like the view that the French political class is out of touch with ordinary people.

Posted 06:52 PM | Comments (0)

Stem Cells, Bush disappoints Italian rightist intellectuals

Italian rightist intellectuals, politicians and thinkers are disappointed with Bush’s recent appearance on the media with a group of children born from frozen embryos.
The right-leaning newspaper Il Foglio published an article written by Jeff Israely , a journalist for Time Europe, thus strongly supporting his view of the matter.

"The U.s. President - states the journalist - is against research on embryonic stem cells, like the Italian supporters of law n.40, but this time their moral stand is much higher because they condemn embryo freezing as well. Being Bush convinced the embryo is a life, how can he allow it being frozen without any guarantees of a safe and certain implantation in a woman’s womb?"

This comment reflects the atmosphere that is dominating Italy at the moment, two weeks before the referendum which could modify or radically change the law which regulates medically-assisted procreation. The country is split between the deeply religious, pro-life voters or non –voters (they are calling on people not to go to the polls and so fail the quorum) and the ones who are in favour of research on embryonic stem cells and of in vitro fertilization with egg or sperm donation.

In recent years rightist intellectuals have always turned to George Bush, their ‘natural ally’, for moral, religious and also practical behaviours, but this time, in the scramble for votes, they can’t help supporting the attack on what they consider to be a contradictory position.

Posted 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

Dutch ´Nee (No)´ on European Constitution

´If it ain´t Dutch, it ain´t much´ the Dutch seem to have thought yesterday. With a turnout of no less than 62, 8 %, an astonishing 61,6 % voted against the Dutch Government's proposal for ratification of the Treaty establishing a European Constitution.

Fear of a loss of national identity ranked high among the reasons no-voters gave for rejecting the Constitution. A majority of the Dutch do not want a ´United States of Europe´. The unpopularity of the United States of America in The Netherlands at the moment may have contributed to the negative image of such a form of state for the European countries.

The relationship between Europe and the US was dragged into the debate on the Constitution by both the yes and the no camp.

Yes voters said that the Constitution would mean that Europe, which under the Constitution would get it´s own Minister of Foreign Affairs, could more effectively oppose the US in the field of world politics. Other yes voters said that the Constitution underlined the importance of cooperation between the US and Europe through for example NATO, since the Constitution mentions that a European common security policy should never replace NATO cooperation. The no voters alleged that a common European foreign policy as proposed by the Constitution would be impossible in practice, since the United Kingdom and several new Member States of the EU tend to follow the US in foreign policy matters, whereas ´old Europe´ does not, as the Iraq war showed. They also argued that a rejection of the EU Constitution would actually be beneficial for EU-US relations.

But most of all, the Dutch no vote was a reminder to Dutch political leaders, who were all in favour of the Constitution, that they need to listen more to the people they try to lead. Or as someone put it: Keep in touch with the Dutch.

Posted 01:42 AM | Comments (0)