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Opinion: Blatant interference is the new normal - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Industrialized countries often show pride in their free markets, and the non-interference of the governments in economic affairs.

This idea can no longer be supported these days, following a number of decisions made by some governments, which displayed obvious interference in support of specific companies to give them unfair advantages.

The most important example of recent times is the low-interest loans granted by President Obama’s administration to a car manufacturer, to save it from a crippling financial crisis. The loan saved the company from certain bankruptcy and caused anger and protest from other international car manufacturers.

There is another example which is just as important. It is what some European industrial countries which are partners in the manufacture of the famous Airbus aircraft do. They support the company openly with benefits and tax incentives that enable the company to compete strongly in the market. This has made its main competitor, Boeing, very angry, compelling it raise one complaint after another.

There is also China, which has so far been unable to deny suspicions of the Chinese Armed Forces’ ownership of telecommunication giant Huawei. This has caused concerns in the United States regarding this company’s participation in important US government tenders, due to the need to protect the American national security.

Recently, the Obama administration made a noticeable move, when it overturned a decision by the International Trade Commission (ITC) to impose a ban on the sale of some Apple products from its iPhone and iPad lines because of the patent lawsuit between Apple and its South Korean rival, Samsung.

The US administration said its decision was caused by “fear of the effects on the competition climate in the US economy and the effects on American consumers,” according to the US Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Apple immediately responded with a statement by its spokesperson who said: “We applaud the administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case.”

Facts state that the severe financial crisis that is affecting the industrial states has caused rise to biased slogans, calling for the purchase of “only local and national products,” which is a strange phenomenon for countries that called for open borders and total globalization.

All that has changed, and necessity has made forbidden things permissible. We now see the German chancellor travelling around fervently promoting German companies. The same goes for the French president, the British prime minister and, of course, the US president.

Major industrial nations can no longer protect their open markets and the freedom which was available to them and the independence of their companies from unfair interference by governments.

Today, governments have removed the cloak of impartiality to replace it with a policy of protecting these companies, because there is a feeling that the fate of the governments is linked to the strength and durability of the major economic institutions in these states, which is practical proof of the true partnership and confidence between the public and private sectors.

However, it is no longer possible to accept that the governments of Western and inudstrialized states do not interfere openly and blatantly to support companies. The era of impartiality and economic independence is over.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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