New Neighbors, New Economy

Posted December 31, 2009

Categories: Articles, Economics

Russia is disappearing. So is Japan. Europe is next to go.

It’s not the rising waters of global warming that threaten these parts of the world. The problem is more basic. The Russians and Japanese, as well as large numbers of Europeans, are not having enough children to replace themselves. The birth rates across a large swath of Eurasia are considerably below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies.

To prevent further shrinkage, many of these countries have instituted policies that encourage reproduction, such as more generous family leave and better child care.While such policies are essential regardless of a country’s fertility rate, they are not going to solve the disappearing country problem. Birth rates continue to remain very low in Taiwan (1.14), South Korea (1.21), Japan (1.21), Ukraine (1.26), Poland (1.28), and Italy (1.31). In the 1970s, only 24 countries had birth rates of 2.1 or less. Today, over 70 countries fall into this category.

Pushing for another baby boom is also globally irresponsible. At a time of climate and energy crises, the earth simply can’t take on too many more passengers. Women bearing children in the industrialized world, in particular, have an enormous impact on global warming: American women having babies generate seven times the carbon output of Chinese women having babies.

The solution lies not in the greater production of people but in their more equitable distribution. The answer to the disappearing country problem is immigration.Birth dearth countries already rely heavily on foreign workers to meet their labor shortage. Their remittances, although reduced by the current global economic crisis, have helped in a modest way to bridge the wealth gap between the developing and developed world.

But foreign workers only temporarily address a symptom of the deeper problem. Only by lowering the barriers to citizenship — as Germany did in 2000 — can shrinking countries revive their economies and become more dynamic international players.

It won’t be easy to persuade Russians to welcome large numbers of Chinese into Siberia or Italy to embrace more Nigerians. The rancorous immigration debate in America demonstrates that fear and xenophobia can overwhelm practical considerations even in immigration nations.Demography, however, is destiny. The pull of economic need and the push of population pressures in the global south are already creating the next great migration.

Rather than watch these patterns unfold, world leaders should act preemptively. We’ve had global summits on population, racism, and the environment. We urgently need a migration summit to coordinate immigration policies, improve the integration of migrants, and address the inevitable xenophobic backlash.

President Obama, the son of an immigrant, should spearhead the initiative. By pushing for a migration summit, he can demonstrate that the United States is finally ready to play well with others. Such a Statue of Liberty play would be a fitting way for the president to spend the political capital of his Nobel Prize and secure his legacy as a global leader.

Drugs and Withdrawal

The only thing worse than a terrorist is a terrorist with drugs. And that, we have been led to believe, is the situation in Afghanistan. According to the conventional narrative, the Taliban is behind the country’s enormous opium production. And this nefarious activity has helped fuel its resurgence.

In his annotation of a recent UN report, Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Julien Mercille deconstructs these myths. “In fact, the United States and its Afghan allies bear a large share of responsibility for the drug industry’s dramatic expansion since the invasion,” he writes in UN Report Misleading on Afghanistan Drug Problem. “Buried deep in the report, its authors admit that reduced levels of drug production would have little effect on the insurgency’s vigor.”

The debate in Washington, meanwhile, remains in a strange state of stasis. Obama is heading off to Asia next week, and a decision on U.S. policy toward Afghanistan will probably have to wait until he gets back. The reliably aggressive Dick Cheney is hounding him from the right to send the maximum number of troops. And the left is urging him to…to…

The left isn’t doing much of anything, argues FPIF contributor Sonali Kolhatkar. “There’s little debate among progressives about how this is a bad war, and at the very least we need an exit strategy,” she writes in A Call for Clarity on the Afghanistan War. “Paralysis has set in on the particular manner of ending the war: whether to wait for some sort of “peace process,” to pull out troops now versus later, to preserve troop levels until Afghanistan’s women are safe, or some variation of these questions. We’re in a bizarre situation: As Obama waffles on how to continue the war in Afghanistan, progressives are waffling on how to end the war.”

Sending more U.S. troops, argues Mariam Nawabi in an interview with FPIF contributor Gabriela Campos, will not likely do the trick. “More troops may actually cause more conflict. If Afghan people see more tanks and individuals in uniform, but they aren’t seeing tangible differences in their lives, they may start questioning U.S. presence. There may be areas in the south where there is a need for more troops, due to the cross-border. But to send a large contingent of troops in the current situation, where there is a need for more development assistance, is not the right strategy at this time.”

The final entries in our South Asia focus this week tackle U.S. policy toward Pakistan. If Washington seems incapable of learning the lessons of the past in Afghanistan, it goes double for Pakistan. “The United States has charted out its relationship with Pakistan for the next 10 years,” writes FPIF contributor Zia Mian in United States, Pakistan: The Decade Ahead. “The recently approved multi-billion-dollar U.S. economic and military aid packages for Pakistan, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit there, suggest that this Pakistan policy will be much like the one Washington followed for the last 50 years. For their part, Pakistanis are unlikely to change their views of the United States and may even become more hostile.”

And FPIF contributor Duran Parsi reviews a new book on Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, who “gave Pakistan a powerful deterrent and was responsible for putting his country on the world stage once again, but at what cost?”

Goldstone, Investment

It used to be that the actions of President George W. Bush made me distinctly un-proud to be an American. Now, alas, Congress has taken over that job. Recently, the House of Representatives voted by an astounding margin — 344 to 36 — to condemn an evenhanded report by a respected South African jurist on the conduct of Israel’s war in Gaza. The congressional rejection of the Goldstone report suggests that a new U.S. foreign policy is still a distant prospect.

“The passage of this resolution isn’t simply about the alleged clout of AIPAC or just another example of longstanding congressional support for Israeli militarism,” writes FPIF senior analyst Stephen Zunes in Bipartisan Attack on International Humanitarian Law. “This resolution constitutes nothing less than a formal bipartisan rejection of international humanitarian law. U.S. support for human rights and international law has always been uneven, but never has Congress gone on record by such an overwhelming margin to discredit these universal principles so categorically.”

The same, alas, seems to apply to the Obama administration’s stance on global economics. FPIF guest columnist Sarah Anderson served on an advisory committee on international investor protections. “My seat at the table was one of many signs of the new opportunities for advocates of progressive change in Washington. At the same time, my experience was an up-close-and-personal look at how hard corporate lobbyists are fighting to make sure nothing changes,” she writes in Clash on Investment. As the final report to the Obama administration reveals, corporate lobbyists “fought back hard against nearly every proposal to increase policy flexibility. In fact, in several areas, they pushed to further curtail regulatory powers.”

FPIF, November 10, 2009

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