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BRITAIN


Published: Sun, September 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


BRITAIN
Daily Telegraph, London, Aug. 31: No one would deny that China, through its size, rapid growth and low wages, presents a unique challenge to Western manufacturers. Yet the behavior of the European Union in its textile dispute with Beijing has been both short-sighted and muddled. Peter Mandelson, the trade commissioner, failed to dissuade the protectionist lobby in France, Italy, Spain and Eastern Europe from seeking a deal which has placed restrictions on exports of 10 categories of Chinese clothing, including sweaters, trousers, T-shirts and bras.
Having been persuaded against his better judgment to negotiate a deal with China, Mr. Mandelson has since given the impression of not knowing which way to turn. First, he unfairly blamed retailers for ordering goods which then piled up at European ports. On Sunday, reminding us of his initial skepticism on trade restrictions, he turned his fire on the commission of which he is a member, EU governments and China. He has given confusing signals on the probable shortfall in deliveries to European retailers, and now finds himself desperately seeking a concession from Beijing before Tony Blair leads an EU delegation to a summit there next week.
Partisan political operator
In short, Mr. Mandelson has confirmed his reputation as a partisan political operator who lacks the intellectual clout and management skills necessary to hold down a big portfolio. The Chinese may give ground, by agreeing to transfer some of the blocked goods to the 2006 quota, in order to smooth the way for Mr. Blair. They may also make concessions to America before President Hu Jintao visits Washington next week.
But in the longer term they will continue to press their competitive advantage in the most populous single market in the world, as part of their ceaseless drive to restore China's greatness. The current dispute reveals, paradoxically, an authoritarian state arguing the benefits of free trade against a divided, democratic Europe scrambling for measures which offer only short-term relief. It is not a pretty sight.
ITALY
Corriere della Sera, Milan, Aug. 31: It was clear that after resigning from his post as minister on the eve of the withdrawal from Gaza, (former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu was ready to announce his own candidacy to seize the leadership of the party.
The most popular leader in Israel, Sharon, risks being humiliated by the man who ... is the least popular and credible: Netanyahu, the artificial banner of the extremist nationalist right, which will vote for him not out of conviction but due to a lack of alternatives.
Road Map
Netanyahu is someone who wants to be liked by everyone: by the Americans, winning them back by saying that he is a champion of the Road Map (two States, Israel and Palestine, in peace and security); by the settlers, assuring them that no settlement will be dismantled; by his compatriots, convincing them of the courage he has never proved he has; by the Palestinian Authority, assuring it that he is the right man to negotiate with. This is why many refer to him as a "pathological liar."
Israel today needs certainties, not ambiguities.
EGYPT
The Egyptian Gazette, Cairo: Iraqi parliament's endorsement of the country's controversial charter is unlikely to end the ominous divisions there. There are growing signs that the constitution, hammered out under U.S. pressure, will fuel Iraq's woes.
The Bush administration, facing renewed criticism over its rationale for the bloody Iraq war, was too impatient for the birth of the constitution that President George W. Bush went public with his personal call on the Iraqi politicians to stop haggling and finish the job. This personal, open interference has raised suspicions particularly of the Sunnis over the whole business.
Power brokers
The Sunnis, the once-dominant power under Saddam Hussein, feel sidelined as the majority Shiites as well as the Kurds emerge as the new power brokers in the post-Saddam Iraq. The draft constitution has drawn public criticism from the Sunnis, with some of their top clerics warning that the document would be a prescription for sectarianism.
The big irony is that the charter will end neither the tribulations of the Iraqis nor the political predicament of the Bush administration, which is accused of waging an unethical and unjustified war in Iraq.


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