Thursday, January 17, 2008
Our politics interesting to our Gaullic cousins
When America sneezes the rest of the world catches cold - so goes the old economic maxim.
And it’s true. You Americans are the most powerful and influential nation on earth and therefore leader of the free world (is it still called that?)
That is why some nations regard you with a certain bitter envy, such as France.
Yet, just over 20 miles away from our Gaullic cousins, a great many here regard the United States as our closest ally.
Different perceptions I suppose. But whatever your view, the election campaign for the U.S. presidency is occupying inches of column space here in Scotland and the rest of the U.K.
However, most people are not really interested in what the Republicans are up to.
Rather it is the battle between Senators Obama and Clinton that everyone here is fascinated by.
It is an absorbing country with a good chance the U.S. will see a ‘first’ - either the first woman president or the first African-American president.
Either will bring a completely different perspective to the job in the White House.
But your system of caucuses and primaries and conventions is totally confusing to many people this side of the Atlantic!
I still haven’t figured it out yet. Here, you have an election in which every U.K. citizen over the age of 18 is allowed to vote.
Whoever gets the most votes - represented by most parliamentary constituencies such as the one here in the Borders (which is Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) - wins and the leader of the political party with most seats takes power the very next day.
Unlike you guys where, whoever wins the election for president in November does not take power until January.
And who finally wins the presidency will be of great interest, as we actually reported in The Southern Reporter last week.
Our local MP (Member of Parliament for the U.K. Parliament at Westminster in London) Michael Moore - who has met Senator Clinton - says he is concerned about ‘noises’ coming from both the camps of the Republicans and Democrats on possible tightening of international trade rules.
This would obviously have a big impact, not just here in Scotland, but around the world, such is America’s influence.
In the 1990s we suffered here in the Borders as a result of the so-called ‘Banana Wars’ when the U.S. fell out with the European Union over the import of bananas into Europe.
A complaint by the U.S. that Europe was hampering the import of bananas from anyone other than former European colonies was upheld by the World Trade Organisation.
But the U.S. eventually slapped massive import duties on hundreds of European goods in retaliation after it felt Europe was not playing ball and abiding by the terms of the WTO ruling.
Among the goods affected was Scottish cashmere, much of which is produced here in the Borders - in fact, the Borders is known as ‘Scotland’s cashmere country’.
Luckily the ‘Banana Wars’ were resolved before the extra import duties cost hundreds of jobs here in the Borders.
But it just goes to show how globalisation of world trade means no where on our tiny planet can ever think it is not going to be affected.
Not so much a case of catching cold when America sneezes, as a bad dose of the flu!
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