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Archive for August, 2011

Globalisation & Pesky Non-Tariff Trade Barriers

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Globalisation of trade has been around for many centuries. However, in its current phase from the 1970s onward, globalisation has become exponentially more efficient and effective – fueled by corporations crossing international boundaries and the golden chalice of trade-enabling technological progress.

Globalisation is enabled by Technology

The enabling technologies of this latest phase of globalisation include rapid development in computer and related technologies (including the Internet), logistical technologies like the humble shipping container, a shift toward internationalised legal/political structures and the almost costless communication that sees more business transactions occuring in 1 day of 2011 than occurred in a year (or years) of the 1960s. Never before have individuals (of elite economies) and business transactions been able to travel so far and fast or purchase goods so broadly at such low cost.

GATT, the WTO & Trade Barriers

Unfortunately all of that internationalisation comes at a price. If you look at the new globalised world – driven by corporations expanding across borders – the ideals of a new world order have aligned squarely on the maximisation of shareholder wealth at the expense of those less fortunate. The World Trade Organisation (WTO – 1995 onwards), which replaced and furthered the aims of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT – ran from 1947 to 1993), has progressed past the lowering of tariff trade barriers and is focused squarely on the issue of non-tariff trade barriers.

The effect of globalisation on affluent societies can’t be denied – those GATT agreements for tariff reductions led to a huge rise in international trade and profits since the end of World War 2. Particularly important, underpinning those Free Trade objectives are those enabling technologies that have resulted in an exponential increase in business transactions and the ability to send goods to their global destinations. Obviously, there are winners and losers in the globalisation paradigm… that cheap shirt you’re wearing is made on the back of the four-fifths of this planet who underpin the one-fifth of us who are better off.

Non-tariff Trade Barriers

Which brings me to those pesky non-tariff trade barriers – that is, any number of trade barriers other than a tariff that stand in the way of free trade on a level international business playing field. As tariff trade barriers receded around the world there has been a tendency to impose non-tariff barriers in their place. These include quotas, import licensing, requirements for documentation, red tape, the use of national standards (often with the excuse of health and safety), buy national policies, an over-valued currency, government policies and subsidies (consider Tony Abbott’s proposed $50 billion subsidy for big polluters), domestic assistance programs, border taxes, administration fees and that pesky old excuse of quarantine.

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Hand Picked by Hitler

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

“I have veins to my heart taken from pigs.” The old man seated himself to my left in the rapier flourishes of 5pm headlights. “I am kept alive with the parts of pigs.”

He was more than old, Ebenezer Scrooge on a wintery night; an ordinary old man wearing a woolen coat, unimposing, my-height short, ten hairs left to the mottled skull, a thick German accent and that pre-death rattle of pseudo-religious regret abundant in the terminally old. The vernacular of death wafted between his sentences through charcoal rough nouns – veins… heart… pigs – and with defiant pride in the possessives – “I have veins to my heart taken from pigs.” The old man licked his words clean of the innocent, dished them onto slivers of old malice and disassembled them without their eyeballs into my Aryan ears.

He said “We loved Hitler.”

The bus stop was a dark-green-slat wood bench set in concrete stubs. An icy night wind scraped my right cheekbone beneath the skin and peeled involuntary tears from the folded corner of a tortured eye socket. The winter scuttled through the thick blue overalls with Darwinian finesse; invisible malicious ice-crabs that crawled into warm muscle and sinew to greet my boot at the ankle. When an old man tells you in the plural that he loved Hitler, life’s shoddy floorboards creak, just a little, under his feet.

“We loved Hitler”, he said. “Hitler cured crime. He sent the criminals to the camps. The first time, a warning; the second, the camps. If they stole a third time, they were dead. Hitler cured crime. He sent the criminals to the camps with the homosexuals. People loved him.”

The old man searched for my reaction. He said “We loved Hitler. When we stood in the crowd and Hitler asked us if we wanted bread or guns, we said guns. ‘Give us guns’.”

His marbled face lit with the memory of exuberant fanaticism, polished boots of the willing young and soft wet kisses from a lover’s white bed-linen. All old men were young men once, but not all young men will be given to grow old. And true love is a well trodden photograph from another reality, behind time’s glass, impervious to history, well-drunk in beers on bar-stools with old comrades; blooded medals left on a retreating battlefront and spent cartridges for the dead.

“The old men at the Polish Club say they asked for bread. ‘Give us bread’. ‘Give us bread’. They say they didn’t love Hitler.”

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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