Driving back from the city, I caught an NPR "Marketplace" segment concerning the heavy tariff burden the U.S. places on countries devastated by the Tsunami. Apparently, the average U.S. duty rate on products from rich nations is about 1%, while the average rate on Sri Lankan goods is 13.8 %. Just recently, Washington imposed anti-dumping duties on shrimp imports from India and Thailand. As a result, Thai exporters will be hit with duties of between 6 and 7%. Indian exporters will face duties of between 5 and 14%. As the Washington Post editorializes, "U.S. policy is thus to extend aid to the tsunami region with one hand while hitting its exports with the other."
If that isn't enough, it appears that US aid also comes at a price. "Theoretically, aid workers bringing clean water to Aceh through US government money could be forced to import a more expensive purifier from the United States even if other options were available." This is because a laws requires taxpayer money be used only on American products. In 1996, the last year for which statistics are available, 72% of American aid came with such obligations. The only country with a higher figure was Italy at 92%. Currently Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand pay $1.8 billion in tariffs to the U.S. At that rate, we will make up all we have given over a four-month period.
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