HOW TO BALANCE economic growth with human rights in semi-democratic nations and dictatorships? The question of the 21st century will be the question of free trade vs. liberty.
As oil power Russia, the world's No. 9 economy, joins the World Trade Organization, there's a spate of stories on how U.S. trade policy still is stuck in the old mentality of the Cold War era. And Cuba, so close to our shores, remains a golden opportunity for U.S. businesses in agriculture, healthcare, tech and telecom, retail goods, tourism and other industries. (A USA Today story I wrote on Cuba's socialist economy in 2006 still holds, for the most part.)
My cheap blogger's take on a multitrillion-dollar trade issue? More U.S. commerce with those countries means more Western influence, which means more openness and freedom. Less trade means less leverage. And no skin in the game means we lose.
Edward Goldberg in The Globalist writes about how U.S. trade restrictions with Cuba and Russia are an "economic dead end" for U.S. businesses and job creation:
"Here is a perfect example of the self-defeating absurdities the present policy regime brings about: Cuba is now drilling for oil within its offshore boundaries in the Florida Straits, about 50 miles off the Florida coast. Yet because of U.S. trade restrictions, the deepwater rig that is drilling the wells was made in, and transported from, China — literally half a world away.
"The main piece of U.S.-made equipment on the rig — the blowout preventer, manufactured by National Oilwell Varco in Houston, Texas — cannot be serviced by that company, or any U.S. company, under current law. One would think . . . that Americans would have a keen interest in having its experts provide that service.
"U.S. trade policy needs to be based on what is good for the U.S. economy and job growth. The United States needs to recognize that, in an ever more integrated world, using trade to fight ideological battles of a bygone era in order to curry favor with small domestic constituencies is an economic dead end."
- The Globalist, "Russia, Cuba and U.S. Jobs" by Edward Goldberg.
- HuffingtonPost, "Opening Russia" by Ed Gerwin.
- Foreign Policy, "No human rights bill trade for granting Russia top trade status" by Josh Rogin.
- CNNMoney, "The biggest winner of a new Russian trade deal" by Cyrus Sanati.
- Wilson Center's Keenan Institute, "U.S.-Russian Relations: The Legacy of Jackson-Vanik."
- USA Today, "Cuba's economic fate up in air" by Edward Iwata.
- Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Risks Missing Boom in Russia" by Sudeep Reddy.