Pro-business types tend to vote for the conservative parties; conservative parties tend to align themselves with the pro-business types. But sometimes, actions have unintended consequences…such as this, for example, as reported in the UK Independent:
Lucrative opportunities taken away on a political whim; the danger of being locked up by an over-mighty government agency; the brick wall of protectionism – the business community expects to do battle with all these things in an emerging market.
Yet this suddenly seems to be a description of doing business in that most developed of all markets, the United States of America.
In the UK, in the cash-rich Gulf states and in fast-growing India, different incidents in the past week have made people ask the same question: is it worth doing business with the US?
Critics say the outcry over the £3.9bn acquisition of P&O by Dubai Ports World, which will transfer the running of five US ports to a state-controlled Middle Eastern company, has exposed the US Congress at its xenophobic worst. But it has also revealed more starkly than ever the protectionist tide that is waxing in America under the guise of national security.
The acquisition was due to close this Thursday, but DP World has had to delay completing the deal as it faces a protracted Congressional and legal fight to keep hold of the US contracts, which account for 6 per cent of the business it is buying.
The refrain is, why can’t an American company run our ports? Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is among the senators proposing legislation to guarantee precisely that.
Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, says it has been a profoundly depressing episode, and one that could have lasting repercussions if it derails a planned free-trade deal between the United Arab Emirates and the US. “These are not societies given to a lot of rhetoric – they are not going to hold a press conference and call off negotiations,” he explains. “But what would happen is that things would slow down – forms of co-operation would not happen any more.”
So, now, let’s see if we got this entirely straight: The Republicans, the most ardently pro-business party in the United States, have just hurt their country’s international trade–that is to say, its business…right when the country could hardly be hurting more.
I find it funny that this is couched as a trade protectionism issue at all, instead of as what it should be–a red flag over the United Arab Emirates, an absolute monarchy which is one of only three countries in the entire world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan–and the homeland of at least two 9-11 terrorists.
And even more ironic, it’s a red-hot indictment of the folly of letting businesspeople run the world. Were the US ports owned and operated by the government–i.e. “We the People”–this whole inane wrangle would never be happening.
But then, Repugnicans have never seen a profit motive they didn’t like…even if it comes at the expense of countless lives at risk and their country’s security in jeopardy.
Oh, and by the way: Said jeopardy is even bigger than we thought.