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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Copenhagen and Sovereignty

Several months ago, Dick Morris was furious over an obscure agreement that President Obama made with the IMF.

The result of this conclave, which France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed as “revolutionary,” was that all the nations agreed to coordinate their economic policies and programs and to submit them to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for comment and approval. While the G-20 nations and the IMF are, for now, only going to use “moral suasion” on those nations found not to be in compliance, talk of sanctions looms on the horizon.

While the specific policies to which the U.S. committed itself (reducing the deficit and strengthening regulatory oversight of financial institutions) are laudable in themselves, the process and the precedent are frightening. We are to subject our most basic national economic policies to the review of a group of nations that includes autocratic Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. Even though our GDP is three times bigger than the second largest economy (Japan) and equal to that of 13 of the G-20 nations combined, we are to sit politely by with our one vote and submit to the global consensus. Europe has five votes (U.K., France, Germany, Italy and the EU) while we have but one.

Morris was furious that Obama had made an agreement that allowed the IMF and the G20 to make binding financial regulations that would govern all companies in any of the G20 nations. As such, by Morris' estimation, that means that European diplomats and bureaucrats would be in charge of setting banking laws for our domestic banks. Never, in Morris' estimation, had our own sovereignty been challenged.

The global climate change conference could have had a similar ramifications. Currently, all expectations are that the conference will lead to limited agreements.

President Barack Obama's decision to drop in on the international climate conference in Copenhagen next month lends some star power to an event that's lost much of its luster — but at considerable risk for Obama himself.

“This could be one hell of a global game changer with big reverberations here at home,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the lead sponsor of climate change legislation in the Senate. “The fact that the president will attend the Copenhagen talks underscores that the administration is putting its money where its mouth is, putting the president's prestige on the line.”

And therein lies the problem for Obama. The upside potential for his visit is limited; expectations for the conference have dropped dramatically over the past few weeks, with nearly universal acknowledgment that the talks are very likely to result in a only limited political agreement, rather than in a legally binding treaty on global warming.

That's largely because the countries involved can't agree on how to tackle the problem and also because during worldwide economic crisis, there's no appetite for this sort of regulation. Still, if there were sweeping agreements, they would alsobe yet another move toward limiting our own sovereignty and giving Europeans the power to regulate domestic industry. For this reason, there was always a great deal of objection to the summit.

With less than 40 days remaining before the governments of the world convene to
hammer out a save-our-species style of agreement on Climate Change, there is a lot of bustling going on in Ottawa. For one thing this is an especially busy time for the staffers behind our politicians. I’m talking about those brave unheralded souls running around Ottawa buying plane tickets, planning dinners, and ensuring the business-attire economy remains recession-proof. Oh yes, the assistant armies of Ottawa are working all hours to ensure that our Government’s representatives are going to look good, eat-well, and rest comfortably while discussing the future of the planet in Copenhagen (COP15).

During the campaign, while speaking to a massive crowd in Germany, candidate Barack Obama announced himself a "citizen of the world". This was met with skepticism in many quarters. The President of the United States should represent the interests of the U.S. first, second, third, and always. They are part of the U.S. and our interests are all that matter. What has happened so far is NOT Earth shattering. Don't believe that some European bureaucrat is about to tell some Chase banker in Chicago what kind of checking account they can offer. They aren't and they can't. What should be concerning is just how apt President Obama is to sign onto an agreement that allows just that.

President Bush dismissed the Kyoto Treaty out of hand for exactly this reason. The Europeans screamed and moaned and his perception there was cemented with this move very early in his presidency. Yet, he represented the interests of the U.S. no matter how unpopular that made him abroad. President Obama had better understand his own job description soon.

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