Failure of Global Trade Talks Should Signal Need for Better System

The article ``Collapse of GATT Talks Signals Trade Troubles Ahead,'' Dec. 10, highlights the need for an improved dispute-settlement mechanism. Many nations are unwilling to involve the 107-nation Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in their trade disputes because of the cumbersome process involved in resolving issues and implementing solutions. For instance, the US took the EC to GATT in 1982 to reduce the EC's import barriers on citrus fruit. When GATT found in favor of the US, the EC ignored the decision, touching off a major trade war. Can any framework without enforcement capacity be effective? GATT's low credibility obstructs its ability to function. It is too easy for governments to work through the current flawed system. Without a new, superior system, however, regional trade agreements will continue to flourish at the expense of overall free world trade.

Kevin A. Fisher, Seattle

Who should control African oil? The opinion-page column ``Ignore Oil States of Africa - at Our Peril,'' Dec. 11, sounds a note of alarm over the possible loss of US access to, and monopolistic control over, Africa's cheap oil. Yet how can we be sure that African masses will always be ruled by Western prot'eg'es? For example, who could have envisioned 10 years ago that the formidable white regime in South Africa would sit down with the representatives of the country's disenfranchised black majority to negotiate on equal terms?

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Haven't Americans already paid a high enough price for putting expediency over ethics? Isn't it time the US learned from the humiliating Gulf experience and abandon its long-standing policy of controlling other nations and their resources?

Sudipta Dutt, Boston

Shifting to the right - or left The article ``Gorbachev Shifts to the Right,'' Dec. 6, repeating a common error in geopolitical labeling, depicts Mikhail Gorbachev as moving right in Soviet politics. Wrong! Gorbachev is moving sharply leftward - away from the free-market centrism of Boris Yeltsin et al., and back toward the Lenin-left ``1917 Socialism'' from which he came. By contrast, Eduard A.Shevardnadze is moving right - away from Leninism and toward those radical-centrist (a proper new label) reformers he calls ``my democratic comrades.''

If the left-right political spectrum is to be used as a proper frame of reference, writers must always face its cast of characters away from the viewer (reader). Only then will the ultra-left (communism) be to everyone's left and ultra-right (fascism, Nazism) be to everyone's right. After 70-plus years it is nonsense to conclude that the Bolshevik left has suddenly come to constitute the right.

Jim Guirard, Washington

A matter of principal The article ``New Funds Offer Principle Guarantee,'' Dec. 10, describes new types of investment funds which guarantee preservation of ``principle.'' All of society would benefit from the preservation of fundamental, underlying laws of moral conduct. But those looking for an investment which promises to preserve original cash outlay might be more interested in a guarantee of ``principal.''

Brian G. Pennix, Boston

According to the article one can double one's principles by buying certain market instruments. I didn't know the market had evolved from repaying principals to doubling one's principles. Does this imply that while we as a nation may be on the verge of bankruptcy, we may emerge as moral beacons to the world?

Jeff Siddiqui, Lynnwood, Wash.

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