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The transparent US government to development advocates: drop dead

Robert Strauss, a Madagascar-based consultant, filed a Freedom of Information Act request last March to find out more about the US government decision to remove Madagascar from its list of countries eligible to receive trade preferences  under AGOA. This is a decision we have blogged about many times, since it has cost thousands of Malagasy textile workers their jobs, without having any discernible effect on the leaders responsible for the 2009 coup and subsequent governance gridlock that landed Madagascar on the US Trade Representative’s hit list in the first place. We also wondered why Madagascar was singled out when dictatorships like Cameroon are still eligible for AGOA.  Strauss requested:

Four months later, the USTR replied:

We have already had a fruitless dialogue with Ms. Hamilton, so that’s just a cover for the cover-up on what really caused the US government to do something so destructive to blameless textile workers in Madagascar.

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2 Comments

  1. Ted wrote:

    Assuming this isn’t somehow corrupt, my best guess is that the activity in Madagascar has been recent whereas these countries have been dictatorships for a while. Cameroon’s autocratic Paul Biya has been in since the early 80s I believe (I’ve always wondered, is the legislative / judicial dog-and-pony show nessecary? Doesn’t everbody in Cameroon know that they are living under a de-facto autocracy? Or maybe the show is for the international community) . Perhaps we just have a status-quo bias going on. Perhaps they would act against Cameroon if Biya just started up his autocracy in 2008. I don’t know.

    Frankly, though, I find this crap offensive. Not only do we punish innocent workers already being oppressed by their new dictatorship -but we give the dictatorship and awesome scapegoat for their problems. Namely the big-bad United States. This is the same crap we tried in Cuba with our trade embargo and it did nothing to advance democracy and freedom, while given Castro a scapegoat for their economic problems. We actively harm the oppress while bolstering the power of the dictator – great policy there guys.

    I also find it offensive there is no explanation for this policy. Ironically, this is the type of crap the governments we are trying punishing like to pull. Making irrational and/ or damaging decisions and then insulating themselves from any accountability what-so-ever. What possible rationale could exist to find the reasoning behind a public policy subject to protected privelage? This is not state secrets we are purusing here.

    Posted October 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  2. Kevin Donovan wrote:

    The USTR has also been negotiating in secret a new IPR treaty with serious implications for developing countries: http://keionline.org/node/962

    Posted October 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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