International -- Readers Report
FOREIGN BANKS HELPED CREATE THE MESS IN ASIA (int'l edition)
I enjoy Professor Rudi Dornbusch's writings, but in his latest piece, he has gone overboard ("A bailout won't do the trick in Korea," Economic Viewpoint, Dec. 8). For instance, Dornbusch says that "foreign investors must take over and clean up the mess with a wave of uncompromising corporate and banking restructurings that are long overdue. Neither the government nor the Korean business community can do the job."
Such statements are condescending. I don't want to suggest that Asia has no economic and financial problems. Dornbusch rightly pointed out that excessive liquidity in the world capital market encouraged indiscriminate lending in Asia. This is one source of Asia's predicament.
But I find it strange that he didn't highlight the fact that credit pushers from non-Asian foreign banks should also be blamed for Asia's malaise. Insofar as South Korea is concerned, the International Monetary Fund penned a glowing report on South Korea as recently as three months ago.
Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaReturn to top
CHINESE PROTECTIONISM OR SIMPLE COMPETITIVENESS? (int'l edition)
"All's fair in the brand wars" (Asian Business, Dec. 22) talked about how China is trying to protect its local brands and how it will threaten foreign companies' access to its markets. I am a Canadian working in Beijing, and I see that many Chinese consumers are switching from foreign products to domestic products, particularly in electronics. I do not think foreign companies should blame Chinese government protectionism.
When consumers make a purchasing decision, they must consider price, quality, and service. And brand name? Sure, but only for high-end products. In China, foreign products usually cost more than domestic ones. In the old days, when consumers sought high-quality products, the only way to get them was to buy foreign brands. But as domestic products improved, who wanted to pay a higher price for same-quality goods?
The true story in China is that consumers fall into different groups. The rich will buy foreign, brand-name products. The middle class will prefer domestic products for economic reasons. For foreign companies in China, my advice is to stop blaming others and enhance your own competitiveness.
BeijingReturn to top
THE ENVIRONMENT NEEDS A `CAMPAIGN OF CONSCIOUSNESS' (int'l edition)
"When green begets green" (Environment, Nov. 17) illustrates how serious many executives are in meeting the challenges looming in the quest to save our planet. It is clear that the issue of maintaining environmental strictures should be at center stage from concept to research labs to commercialization. There are many consultants to deliver homilies to regulatory agencies trying to make manufacturers toe the line. But as a matter of fact, we are not serious about protecting the environment, which is the biggest single factor we ought to be considering.
What environmentalists should do is run a serious "campaign of consciousness" aimed at improving industrial processes from the start. We are now doing too little, too late.
Sultan Akhtar Patel
Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaReturn to top
A NURSE'S-EYE VIEW OF TRADE AGREEMENTS (int'l edition)
"Now for the slow track" argues that labor and environmental provisions "muddy free-trade talks" and are "unrelated but important items that get in the way of finalizing the most effective trade agreements" (American News, Nov. 24). The American Nurses Assn. (ANA) considers labor and environmental issues to be very relevant to negotiating any trade agreement that includes trade in services.
The U.S. continues to draw foreign-educated nurses here with promises of better wages and working conditions. Experienced foreign nurses willingly come and work for a basic wage that is often less than an experienced U.S. RN would accept, resulting in lower U.S. wages in a highly skilled, high-wage profession. Yet what incentive is there for a U.S. RN, who now faces greater competition at home, to seek employment in another country where wages are not comparable and could place his or her personal safety and health at risk?
In addition, U.S. RNs are being discriminated against under the North American Free Trade Agreement. While we have opened our borders to Canadian nurses, Ontario and Quebec require permanent residency or citizenship for U.S. RNs to register to practice in those provinces. This closes more than 60% of the Canadian nursing jobs to U.S. nurses. Where is the level playing field? If the expectation is that domestic nurses must become better-educated and bilingual so that they are competitive in this new market, then those markets where the U.S. has entered into a trade agreement must be open. The barriers placed by Canada against U.S. RNs have set a dangerous precedent that could carry over as the U.S. seeks to add countries, like Chile, under NAFTA and places U.S. RNs at great disadvantage.
As the world moves toward a model of increased mobility of professional workers, we must ensure that, in countries where professions have struggled to raise wage rates and improve working conditions to acceptable levels, workers are not jeopardized by those who would seek to exploit foreign professionals. In addition, we must work toward improving the wages and working conditions in other countries so that there is less incentive for those professionals to leave their homelands and more incentive for other professionals to take advantage of greater mobility, as originally envisioned. Labor issues are very relevant to trade agreements and will become more so as the world becomes smaller, travel and communication becomes easier, and individuals look to the whole world for employment opportunities.
Cheryl A. Peterson, MSN, RN
Senior Policy Fellow
American Nurses Assn.
WashingtonReturn to top