Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Flawed Logic

In the campaign to fight global warming, Asia is becoming a real troublespot.

Asian nations, and particularly China and India, are undergoing an industrial metamorphosis as once-Western multinationals pack up shop and relocate to their part of the world in search of cheap labour and relaxed or non-existant regulation. To Asians it's seen as a long-overdue, economic miracle and one they're not keen on seeing restrained.

That's why several Asian nations are becoming quite vocal about the West's fledgling movement to arrest global warming by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. They don't like what they see coming and they're waging their own pre-emptive strikes.

Asian business and government leaders have accused rich countries of hypocrisy, saying they run polluting industries with cheap labour in China and then blame the country for worsening climate change.

Malaysia's deputy finance minister, Nor Mohamed Yakcop, is the latest to weigh in, accusing the West of "green imperialism." The thinking goes that Western countries are hypocritical because they run polluting industries with cheap labour in Asia and then blame the Asian countries for worsening global warming.

The flaw in this logic is that it assumes Western states "run" the multinationals. In reality, we stopped running them when we adopted the mantra of free trade, the free flow of capital unfettered by tariffs. By surrendering most of our ability to control access to our markets, we surrendered a great deal of our sovereignty to globalization and the multinationals.

The Asians do have a perfectly legitimate claim that, per capita, our emissions are already several times higher than theirs but that's an argument that can only be entertained in a more perfect world in better circumstances.

We need to come up with a means of compelling Asian co-operation in the GHG battle and we have one very powerful tool at our disposal - access to our markets. The wealth that is accruing to Asia from their industrial revolution is in no small part dependent on the ability of the multinationals to sell their manufactured goods in our market. Restrict those markets and Asia's economic miracle wilts.

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