PORTUGAL: INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF LISBON

The XVIII International Conference of Lisbon was marked by the week in which the US electoral process was concluded, this being the central theme of the conference: the role of the USA in the configuration of world order in the post-cold war period. The most interesting conclusion to be drawn is that this conference exposed the fallacy that the United States is the only world superpower, omnipresent and all-powerful. While the post-cold war USA was described as “unilateral”, it was pointed out that natural external barriers, such as the potential of Russia and China and powerful internal ones, such as its strong participative democracy, limit the extent of Washington’s power overseas. Charles Grant, advisor to Tony Blair and architect of the British Prime Minister’s “Third Way” (a middle path between aggressive monetarism and interventionist socialism), stated that: “America is becoming more and more unilateral” and “difficult times” are ahead for the transatlantic relationship with Europe. He pointed out that the election of Bush, who has never been to Europe, is a sign of times to come. However, with the void in leadership within the European Union, so clearly visible at the Nice Summit last weekend, in which the 15 Member-States of the EU each pulled in different directions, trying desperately not to submit to foreign pressures, invites and even provokes the existence of a unilateralism of any country powerful enough to be unilateral. Prof. Hйlio Jaguauribe, Dean of the Institute of Political Studies, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, agreed that the USA in the last quarter of a century has become more and more unilateral but at the same time, it exercises its influence in a benign way because it is always restrained by a participative democracy at home. This factor, coupled with the potential of countries such as Russia and China, means that the USA cannot, and could never, behave in the same way as classical imperial powers because its presence anywhere is based fundamentally on consent. The professor did not mention the power of the modern press, which is as aggressive as it is implacable. The future ties between the USA and the rest of the world were also discussed at this conference, the main themes being which model of trading blocks to adopt. Professor Telo, of the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, stated that the way preferred by the United States, that of liberalising trading constraints in its external commerce is not sufficient because “political neo-regionalism” is based on groups of countries, not individual ones and a simple liberalisation would not be profound enough to have any real effect. He quoted the European Union as being a good example of this and in his opinion, the way forward is for the American Continent to form a single trading block based on AFTA (American Free Trade Association) or the alternative, MERCOSUL, formulated in Rio in the 1990s. It was an American, Ian Lesser, of the Rand Corporation, Washington, who posed two vital questions for the future: How will the USA perform abroad in a worsening internal financial scenario? How will globalisation of the economy be possible in a time of recession? Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Pravda.Ru, Lisbon