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Friday, March 10, 2006

More on the Ports Deal

The controversial Ports deal for DP World is dead. To save face, according to media reports, the administration asked DP to pull out.

I have mixed feelings about this outcome for a variety of reasons, many of which I mentioned in another post. However, if the issue did anything, it brought to light the double standard and knee-jerk grandstanding of many of our lawmakers. Somebody somewhere should keep track of all the politicians who jump the gun on issues and make fools of themselves. Do you want someone with a hair trigger running your government, your military?

Quite a few democrats, and even some republicans, when it became clear security was not the magic bullet, decided to use the Arab boycott of Israel (in effect since 1948) as an argument against the deal. However, these days, with many Arab countries in the WTO, unauthorized and unilateral embargoes and boycotts against a WTO-favored country are banned, making the 'official' Arab policy against Israeli goods and trade a boycott in name only. In fact, only two Arab countries maintain Israel Embargo and Boycott Enforcement Offices. One is Syria, the other Lebanon. This does not mean Israel enjoys unencumbered open trade with Arab countries. On the contrary, even Egypt and Jordan, with which it is at peace, are far from full trade partners. But the difference between what is and what is suppose to be proves the ambiguousness of the boycott. In other words, it shows there are rays of light shining in an area that the media typically paints as a deep, dark, impenetrable hole of bleak and bloody terror.

In fact, of all the Arab countries, the UAE, of which Dubai is a part, has maintained working relationships with several large Israeli firms. One of these is Zim Lines, whose CEO, in letters to DP World executives and certain members of government, most notably Clinton and Schumer of New York, expressed his dismay at the beating DP World was taking in the US Press and the halls of Congress. He stated in his letter that Zim Lines has called on multiple ports owned by DP World including those in Dubai itself.

The duplicity of Clinton and Schumer and others is clear. On the one hand, they criticize the administration for not reaching out more to Arab moderates and Arabs who look more favorably on western culture. Moreover, they blame this administration for what they perceive as a festering Arab animosity to the U.S. And yet, they are unwilling to treat as equals the Arabs who want to work with us and who respect our financial and economic traditions.

Do I want DP World to own these six U.S. port operations? I don't know. But I would not fly off half-cocked armed with a pocketful of misapplied mistrust and barrel of erroneous information. I am also inclined to improve our relations with people through joint enterprises whereby we own some of what they have and they own some of what we have. Economic cooperation is a powerful tool in the fight against terror. It just may be the most effective tool we have.


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