21 May, 2024


Free Trade: A Weapon To Bring Nations To Heel?

By Mano Ratwatte  –

Mano Ratwatte

“Human Rights” and “Humanitarian concerns” are very selective powerful tools for powerful nations, to be selectively administered to control nations. Add to that the weapon called Free trade. For example, the American strongman President Trump is only concerned about trade from an American perspective. 

No matter how much breast thumping and flowery words their State Department officials may engage in, fact of the matter is Strongman President Trump has scuttled TPP1(the same diplomats were praising TPP under Obama and their social media was actively singing praises of TPP and JCPOA2 during Obama’s time; now they have to sing the opposite to keep their jobs), got out of the Paris climate change accord, scuttled NAFTA3 and slammed tariffs on China, Mexico and Canada. Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of commerce will soon engage India in the same trade war.  

The US has a goods and services trade deficit with India which was $27.3 billion in 2017.(USTR.GOV); which is relatively small, compared to their massive  goods and services trade deficit with China which was $335.4 billion in 2017 and reportedly at $222.6Billion.. Strongman Trump’s tariffs resulted in counter tariffs by China; those tariffs hurt the US farmers mostly and those are ironically Trump voters! US ended up with unsold stocks of soya beans after China retaliated by (China is the world’s largest soy buyer) moving to other buyers.

In contrast, Sri Lanka is  the 70th largest trading partner with USA, and it only has a 2.5Billion dollar surplus in bilateral trade with USA; that too can be used as a weapon with threats to impose tariffs on Sri Lankan exports to USA if Sri Lanka does not abide by its demands. US is increasingly coveting a semi-permanent military presence in South Asia. Trincomalee is ideal for them; it is the 4th largest natural harbour in the world, where the British imperial fleet moved, when Singapore fell to the Japanese in the most humiliating surrender-defeat of Sri Lanka’s former Colonial masters; they were commanded by a mediocre uncharismatic General called Percival who stupidly did not think the Japanese will invade from the North and had almost all his guns trained on the ocean. This writer just loves WW-II history. Sorry for digressing

That is the reality. Sri Lanka has no oil like Saudi Arabia which got away chopping up a top journalist. It is now engaging in a massive diplomatic spending spree just giving $20Billion to Imran Khan’s Pakistan as aid.  Sri Lanka cannot afford to annoy Saudi Arabia either.  

USA does not utter a peep about the massive human rights and crimes in Yemen where US weapons are reported to be the biggest cause of massive civilian deaths; there is a proxy war going on between Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia and Shia Persian Iran there. Energy politics, and security interests take precedence over human rights.

In Venezuela, bungling militaristic Socialist Dictators late Hugo Chavez and Maduro now has created economic chaos in once the most prosperous nations in Latin America. A great example of where State controlled socialism does not work even if the ideals of social equity are to be admired. Chavez instituted well-meaning socially equitable policies and went on a massive socialist spending spree; the problem was the government assumed oil prices were going to be in the $100-$140/bbl range forever. No. When Oil prices slid down low, they could not sustain the same levels of spending. It created massive chaos. In addition, Venezuela decided to foolishly strike out against US business interests in their oil industry. Remember Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. But now it is caught in the China debt trap too. Enter rescuer in white robes, the great Strongman Trump who is “deeply concerned”<cough> about Venezuela and its people because of oil; otherwise he would be concerned about other capitalist struggling drug infested Latino nations too and want to intervene and help those people too. But Guatemala, Bolivia, El Salvador etc do not have oil. 

The top five source countries of U.S. petroleum imports in 2017 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Iraq.   Mexico has lots of oil and is the one of  largest exporters of oil to USA, but it is a capitalist nation torn by narco-terrorism and in denial. Mexico isn’t a candidate for military intervention by the US.  Orchestrated media publicity is about Venezuela and about their plights, broadcast daily by corporate so called free media.  While Strongman Trump has stopped temporary stays for most Latin American nationals, it has just issued one for Venezuelans in USA.

US can do a lot more damage to Sri Lanka by tariffs if Sri Lanka does not go along with US desires vis-a-vis Trincomalee, more access to military facilities and basically join its group in the long term protracted tug-o-war with China. In the UNP regime it has a willing partner, the US will like remaining in power for a long time.

The phrase “Indo-Pacific” is a recent concept coined during the Obama regime. Strongman Trump will further extend American interests.  Also remember Strongman Trump can scuttle any international agreement as he sees fit with impunity: that is what he did with JPA  despite vehement EU protests against scuttling it. The US rift with Europe is growing. Putin maama is very happy.

Venezuela, and Iran are on their targets for regime change. Whether it will end up like the disaster Obama-Hillary created in Libya remains to be seen. But US and Israel see a direct Iranian threat to Israel; that is unacceptable.

The Following excerpt is verbatim from USTR.COM

Sri Lanka is currently our 70th largest goods trading partner with $3.2 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2017. Goods exports totaled $336 million; goods imports totaled $2.9 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Sri Lanka was $2.5 billion in 2017.

According to the Department of Commerce, U.S. exports of goods to Sri Lanka supported an estimated 2 thousand jobs in 2015 (latest data available).

Imports from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was the United States’ 62nd largest supplier of goods imports in 2017. U.S. goods imports from Sri Lanka totaled $2.9 billion in 2017, up 2.7% ($76 million) from 2016, and up 38.4% from 2007. 

The top import categories (2-digit HS) in 2017 were: knit apparel ($1.1 billion), woven apparel ($880 million), rubber ($258 million), precious metal and stone (other stones not strung) ($109 million), and coffee, tea & spice ($77 million).

U.S. total imports of agricultural products from Sri Lanka totaled $195 million in 2017. Leading categories include: tea, including herb ($40 million), spices ($40 million), tropical oils ($24 million), tree nuts ($23 million), and essential oils ($17 million). –End Excerpt

Sri Lanka will have no choice but to juggle so called non-aligned stance with a bit of “ehei haamudurowaney; hondamai Sir, we will bend over ” to the USA in the near future if it is to avoid pressures on Human rights, war crimes or trade. China and India will not buy Sri Lankan exports including Victoria’s secret, the way the USA does. 

US is the biggest most lucrative consumer market for almost all developing nations including Sri Lanka’s competitors like Bangladesh and Vietnam.  Human rights, Humanitarian concerns, Trade are all effective weapons of powerful nations. 

Even Russia engages in that with rest of Europe with their natural gas exports to Western Europe. What’s to be done men? Aiyo.

1. Trans Pacific Partnership

2. JCPOA : Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

3. NAFTA : North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Trade embargoes, GSP+, MCC, IMF, in addition to the war crimes noose – too many strings attached. No matter who ever comes to power in lanka, those who will pull the strings are outside. Without knowing this, the masses are fighting over who comes to power while those in power fight for their share of loot.

  • 0

    USA tried to dismantle India too. But, today most of the CEOs, CFOs, Scientists less important places are Indians. What I heard India asked USA via those Professionals to not to disturb India. That is a very old story. Now a days, India, Pakisthan, Srilanka are heavily infested with CIA agents. In Sri lanka, they do not come for Trincomalee as Sri lanka has signed an agreement with India saying Sri lanka would not lease it without India’s permission. That is why the 99 fuel tanks in Trincomalee are still rusting and can not be used. Sri lanka is important for USA to give problems to China. Sri lanka is importwnt in giving trouble to China, To spread the Neo-liberalism and I heard every western country that went Bankrupt says is ” WE HELPED YOU THEN AND NOW HELP US. So, that has happened. Many Sri lankan politicians are USA agents. IT is simply for them to stay in power and to be important when they visit NEW YORK. IF they have a photo OP with the PResident or if they are invited, they would die for that opportunity.
    right now, what I hear Venezuela, Nicaragua, HAiti, Dominican republic are all going through problems. Venezuela had problems even when Chavez was there. My guess is Chavez was given radioactive cocktail and Chavez followed a leftist policy. Recently, USA is really pissed off,, I think, because Venezuela signed ans security agreement with Russia. Senate is furious and they say IT is not in our backyard and we would finish off Venezuela.
    For Sri lanka, who ever comes, the next govt has problem from USA. I do not thin Trump even knows where in the Map Sri lanka is. But, CIA has has detailed maps of Sri lanka and Sri lanka has so many politicians who wants to Destroy sri lanka because they were not allowed to be important ones I suppose.

  • 0

    Not only free trade, every thing they can use they use it. Free trade is part of Neoliberalism. It is they wanted Free trade and now TRUMP says Globalization is NO, NO. and it is america first. I heard they use even Migration to screw up countries. I believe that Tamils building Block votes in the west is that. On the other hand, educated and rich immigrants are well come in their countries. That is how they build INCOME PER CAPITA OR THE GDP. they keep on paying taxes and in comparison to locals, immigrants would dies to succeed because in their poor countries they are used to hardships.

  • 0

    Sri lanka has to change it’s export policies. Sri lankan govts are very corrupt and inefficient and not worried about Sri lanka getting busted every way and screwed up. Mangala Samraweera is one who is completing the Agenda.

  • 0

    Mano , how I see this discussions is alike chicken and egg debate, which came first ???The issue with Lanka and other failed countries are similar and mostly self created. (Venezuela/Africa) . They must take responsibility for their own down fall. The causes can be easily grouped as external VS internal. Yes there are external factors such as past colonialism and current hegemony of super powers/western world and we have our own internal factors such as politicians/policies/corruption —etc , which I believe has played a much bigger role in exacerbating our failure. Being in denial and not accepting our responsibility for past 70 years has taken us no where other than hitting the bottom. We just cannot be in denial or blind, not to be aware any more. There are countries who have gone through much severe setbacks compared to us and are now free of both.

  • 3

    Sri Lanka is an irrelevant business partner to the USA. There is nothing SL can offer to US that it cannot purchase from somewhere else. The only reason US is purchasing from SL is out of generosity, the diversify it’s trading partners and because SL has been a model democracy in Asia for a long time.

    The major export item is the Luncket Industry. The US can anytime source it’s Luncket needs from Bangladesh, Vietnam or the LATAM countries.

    In the US, if you goto a Macy’s or Lord and Taylor store, you will find Made in Sri Lanka Lunckets, Panties and what not. The Luncket industry is not going to cut it. Sri Lanka needs heavy industries.

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