Ross Clark

Globophobia | 20 March 2004

A weekly survey of world restrictions on freedom and free trade

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At last, some good news for the anti-war lobby. British servicemen will not be forced — in fact will not be allowed — to do America’s dirty work for it. That is my interpretation, at any rate, of Dodd Amendment no. 2660 to the Jumpstart Our Business Strength Act, passed by the US Senate last week by 70 votes to 26. The amendment prohibits companies working on federal and state government contracts to outsource work abroad. The Senate isn’t even bothering to try to dress up its actions as a security issue: this is a shameless piece of protectionism. American unions have cried foul that companies are increasingly cutting costs by outsourcing certain administrative operations, especially to India, and so senators have obliged. From now on, Samuel J. Seersucker III will be able to fill in his driving licence application safe in the knowledge that no foreigner is going to be allowed to get his dirty mitts on it.

Following decades of trade barriers, the world is grudgingly coming round to acknowledge that free trade in goods is of huge benefit to us all, even if it does mean that the odd smokestack factory in Milwaukee is going to have to close down and the toothless hicks who work within will have to haul their trailers to the next state and retrain for something else. But now it seems the world will have to go through the whole process all over again with trade in services. If US companies on government business are allowed to save US taxpayers’ money by buying plant and machinery from overseas, why should they not be allowed to do the same by purchasing the best and most effective services available on the world market?

If I were an American taxpayer, I would feel cheated. If I were a British military policeman fed up with trying to keep insurgents at bay in Basra, on the other hand, I would be tempted to ask why it wasn’t also so vital to reserve military jobs in Iraq for Americans.