Nearly 20 years after it asked to join the World Trade Organization, Russia has finally been admitted to the global body, which counts on its roster every major economy and—come to think of it—virtually every country that isn’t regarded as rogue. American businesses might expect to double their exports to Russia but for one anachronistic hitch: the Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974. This law, a pillar of America’s Cold War architecture, linked the granting of “permanent normal trading relations” with Moscow to Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, and its continued presence on the statute books, in violation of WTO rules, would entitle Russia to withhold the benefits of liberalized trade from U.S. companies. Russia’s accession to the WTO was the result of tortuous negotiations: the implicit promise was that if American demands were met, the U.S. would grant Russia the same treatment it grants every other WTO member. For Congress to refuse to repeal Jackson-Vanik is, many believe, a most un-American betrayal of that deal. As Edward Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations told this column, “There are certainly human-rights issues in Russia, as there were and continue to be in China, which acceded to the WTO in 2001. There is no sensible reason to treat Russia any differently.”
Lost in Translation
The French are different. Their biographers burrow into mysterious places that chroniclers from other lands would regard as terra incognita. In Nothing Goes as Planned, a new book about François Hollande, the novelist Laurent Binet offers us these psycho-gems, as quoted in The New York Times: “I noted this in [Hollande]. What we take too often for joviality masks a fundamental irony that he only abandons in exceptional circumstances, when the gravity of the moment demands it.” (In plain English: Hollande can be serious when he wants to be.) There is in Hollande’s voice, Binet continues, “the indication of a distance from himself and from events that I have not observed in others, like an admission that he is not fooled by all this human comedy, in which he wants nonetheless to play a leading role.” (In English: Hollande is a tough old loner.)
Nguyen, Nguyen, Gone
These are not the best of times for East Asian tycoons. Just days after South Korea jailed one of its wealthiest men for embezzlement, Vietnam arrested its fifth-richest magnate on suspicion of “economic violations,” the sort of Orwel-lian charge that lives on in a country that is robustly capitalist in practice but still doggedly communist in theory. Nguyen Duc Kien’s detention has sparked a run at the Asia Commercial Bank, of which he is a founder, and sent tremors through an already overwrought country reeling from inflation and a growth rate much slower than the tigerish pace to which it had become accustomed. The BBC reports that Kien’s downfall may be a subplot of a larger political drama—a power grab in the upper rungs of the Communist Party by those hostile to Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam’s prime minister, a man to whom Kien has intimate ties.
Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of Rupert, took a public swipe at her brother James last week, in a speech that was an intriguing marriage of ideology and sibling rivalry. Delivering the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture in Edin-burgh, Elisabeth scolded James for a speech he’d given three years before at the very same forum, in which he’d warned that the BBC’s expansionist ambitions were having a “chilling” effect on companies that had to make a profit to survive. “James was right that if you remove profit, then independence is massively challenged, but I think that he left something out: the reason his statement sat so uncomfortably is that profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster.” Profit, she added, “must be our servant, not our master.” The speech, said The Daily Telegraph, “bordered on a philosophy lecture,” prompting a philosopher admired by this page to observe that she “came across as that most improbable of things, a cross between Ayn Rand and the Marxist Slavoj Zizek.”
With Luke Kerr-Dineen