Over Here, Over There

 BANGLADESH

VoxFairfax previously reported (August 2, 2021) the deaths of hundreds of factory workers in Bangladesh largely due to the lack of workplace safety regulations and protections.

The widespread proliferation of industrial expansion in the country, however, was occasioned in large part by American and other international companies seeking to manufacture products at lower labor costs. According to the World Trade Organization, Bangladesh had been the third largest garment exporter after China and Vietnam.

The majority of deaths occurred in garment factories echoing the tragic conflagration in New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on March 11, 1911, which sparked nationwide workplace safety reforms. In 2013, an international voluntary and legally binding agreement was fashioned to promote voluntary participation by some 200 international retailers.

A new agreement, effective last month, replaced the original pact and includes more effective safety commitments, independent inspections, and contributions for safety training and improved manufacturing facilities. In addition, the new agreement makes participating companies subject to liability where factories fail to meet standards.

Although signatories to the 2013 agreement, it has been reported that the GAP, Walmart, and Target would not join the newly enacted version. American consumers, it is supposed, can expect no price increases at these giants. Sure!

ITALY

When folks attempt to revive or relive history, the blowback can sometimes be intense.

Many are aware of the emergence or reemergence of nationalism (i.e., right-wing politics) in a number of western and eastern European nations mirroring the election of President Trump. Nationalist proponents employ memes, icons, and slogans to motivate supporters.

An Italian official, undersecretary in the economic ministry and a leading member of the right-wing League party, proposed to rename a park after a member of the Mussolini family. Following World War II, a tacit agreement arose favoring a blanket condemnation of authoritarian leaders. Although once named for Arnaldo Mussolini, Benito’s brother, it was renamed by the local city council in 2017 for two murdered anti-mafia prosecutors.

Arnaldo was a spokesperson for Benito during the latter’s reign. The official proposing the naming maintained that the Mussolini family had many positive accomplishments warranting honor. Fascism, Italian or otherwise, appears to retain viability as nationalism has gained political traction in Italy.

Nonetheless, the official resigned his post following broad criticism. Italian Antifa!

VIETNAM

For 20 years (1955-1975), the United States invaded, bombed, and spread chemical warfare in the South East Asian nation of Vietnam far more devastatingly than that in Afghanistan. In 1833, President Andrew Jackson established diplomatic and trade ties with Vietnam. President Bill Clinton normalized that relationship in 1995.

Since then, Vietnam has made tremendous strides to establish economic and diplomatic ties with hundreds of partners across the globe. It turns out that it is a major producer of Robusta, the bitter-tasting bean used in instant coffee and some espresso blends.

For the past year or more, however, the pandemic has severely crippled international trade and commerce, especially affecting commodities such as Robusta, as its prices have risen by about 50% during that time. America’s iconic addiction to the morning brew is certain to cause anxiety and jitters at the breakfast and post-prandial moments.

An America deprived of its coffee fix presents a frightening image. The good news is that a June 2021 report by the US Department of Agriculture forecast that Vietnam’s production of Robusta was expected to rebound by 1.8 million bags to 30.8 million, although at higher prices.

Former enemies as valued current commercial partners mirrors a kind of insightful wisdom to be noticed. If every morning cuppa coffee whispered “Vietnam,” it could be a world-changer. What a difference a war makes – or doesn’t.

MONTENEGRO

Global superpowers continue to exert influence in the Balkans, often with Montenegro as a fulcrum. Russia has had a longstanding interest in the affairs of the peninsula as it offers shipping and military outlets to the Mediterranean.

In July 2018, at a NATO summit in Brussels, President Trump elbowed the President of Montenegro to the consternation and embarrassment of media and viewers. Following the summit, Trump was interviewed on the Tucker Carlson show where he questioned the purpose of the NATO alliance by seeming to diminish Montenegro. The President commented, “By the way, they’re very strong people. They have very aggressive people. They may get aggressive. And congratulations, you’re in World War III.”

Trump had responded to Carlson’s simplistic question, which was devoid of military or diplomatic content regarding a hypothetical attack on Montenegro: “Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that…?” As NATO was founded in 1949, three years after the 45th President was born. Oh, well.

In 2015, China entered an agreement with Montenegro to construct a highway estimated to cost $1 billion. The project is a component of a global effort by China called One Belt One Road, initiated in 2013 to extend and enhance “regional connectivity” around the world. The Montenegrin project ran out of funds and the Chinese construction conglomerate abandoned work, creating a road to nowhere.

Under the terms of the contract, failure to pay debt installments gives China the right to seize land in the debtor country. Montechina?

 

 

 

 



Categories: International Events, international trade, Issues, politics

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