A few days ago I found myself at a meeting of journalists from around the world. They had been brought to the United States by Harvard’s Nieman Fellowship Program and were giving presentations to a small group of mostly older Americans in a Maine Congregational Church.
It was a chance to hear what is on other people’s minds. So much of what we get is Yankee-centered, it’s easy to believe there are no people elsewhere with other desires and other points of view.
The program was kicked off by Mary Ann Jolley of the Australian Broadcasting Company. Without bitterness and without anger, she discussed the Iraq War and the mountainous lack of enthusiasm for it in her country. Though she didn’t allude to it, you could not listen to her without meditating on the number of times the people of this far-off land had shouldered arms to take part in remote slaughters engaged in by Britain and the United States.
More immediately, Jolley spoke about the reaction in Australia to the 2002 Bali bombing in which eighty-eight of her countrymen perished. The event, she said, brought home to Australia that it is an Asian nation and that its future must rest on strong ties with other Asian nations. She was too polite to say so, but the message seemed to be that America cannot automatically count on us anymore.
A similar sentiment came from Claudia Antunes, Rio bureau chief for Folha de S. Paulo.
Brazil, she pointed out, is not economically dependent on the United States, with whom it does only a quarter of its foreign trade. Moreover, she seemed to wonder what kind of a future Brazil, the giant of the south, could have with the giant of the north, considering the United States has a protective tariff so high that Brazilian ethanol, the cheapest in the world, cannot get into this country. Antunes sees her country’s future lying not with any NAFTA-like treaties but with Mercosur (Mercado Común del Sur), the common market trading agreement among Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
As a group these journalists know more and care more about business and economics than a comparable group of American news people. It is on their minds. It was certainly on the mind of Bill Schiller, the foreign editor of the Toronto Star.
Schiller brought up the lumber import tax dispute, about which most Americans are ignorant and most Canadians are not. The American impost has been ruled in violation of trade agreements eleven times over twenty years and has only recently been settled, sort of. In a pleasant way he reminded his audience how dependent America is on Canadian energy and added that Canada’s disillusionment with the behavior of America, its single largest customer, is spurring the idea of constructing a pipeline for selling oil and gas to China and Japan.