Jonathan Brun

Chinese Labour Laws and EU Chemicals

The EU is looking to pass new regulations regarding the approvals of chemicals. New chemical regulations for the European Union would essentially force companies to prove that their chemicals are not harmful, rather than the government having to prove that they are harmful. This is logical as it will indirectly increase the price of products made with hazardous materials because the companies will have to spend more on approvals and lawyers.

The law will favour people who can create products using non-hazardous, natural substances. As much as we bash the EU in North America, these laws show that perhaps they are thinking a little more than us and they have the courage to stand up to the lobbies.

The relevant article is found here: Click Here

China, like many other developing countries, has an exploited workforce and large differences in wealth. However, China has two things most developing nations don’t, size and power. They are going to pass new labour laws that will help many people who are working in hazardous and under-paid situations. Though this is not the silver bullet, it is an important step to helping the poor and bringing more balance to the system. Surprise, surprise, American companies are leading the charge against this new regulation. Apparently, 25 cents per hour is too much to pay for labour costs. It is unlikely that they will succeed in shifting the Chinese government, who has become very powerful.

The president, Hu JinTao has also recently consolidated his power by removing business friendly (read money-friendly/corrupt) officials who were very high up in the party. This consolidation of power allows the president and his following to pursue some of their interests such as environment, social balance, and welfare. This may sound a little dreamy-tears-in-your-eyes for the leader of a “communist” nation; but the reality is that without these improvements in social welfare, the government would lose legitimacy in the eyes of the 1.1 billion poor Chinese and there would be serious risk of large general social unrest. China is looking towards its future, not just that of middle class westerners.

The article concerning the labour laws can be found here: Click Here

The article concerning the consilidation of power can be found here: Click Here

Published on October 13, 2006

Turkey and the European Union

The primary question that the EU, and the rest of the world has yet to address, never mind answer, is whether Islamic culture and European (read Christian) culture can productively co-exist or whether we even want it to. Can we create a secular state where religion can play a central role in a person’s life, but not be part of the government to which he belongs? If we believe the answer is yes, then there is no doubt that Turkey has what it takes to be part of the EU.

The EU guidelines are a great power for good; they spread democracy, social institutions and transparency without guns or micro-management. The old European fashion of colonialism was effectively a heavy-handed way of introducing European style institutions into a foreign culture. The EU guidelines allow for a more macro approach. Guidelines and end-goals are set, and the countries that wish to join the EU must find their own methods of reaching the goals. This allows for stable nation building, which avoids many of the weak links in armed or colonial approaches. It takes longer, but it also lasts longer and penetrates deeper into society. The improvement of eastern European governments over the past 15 years is largely due to their adoption of EU standards with regards to government, social issues and business practices. I believe this same method can be used to help Turkey become a secular, stable state with an Islamic population. Turkey would then act as a model for other Islamic societies. It is evident that the heavy-handed approach in Iraq will not work; as such, we must re-think our approach to helping Islamic states modernize.

My recent trip to Turkey was very illuminating. To be completely fair, I did not speak Turkish and I only travelled to the most modern parts of the country. Tales from other travellers I met described eastern turkey as a truly third world area with little to no modern infrastructure. However, the situation in China – through which I travelled extensively – is not very different and yet they are progressing towards modernization at an astounding pace. One major issue that still hangs over Turkey, is their freedom of speech and their denial of the Armenian Genocide. It is necessary that Turkey take responsibility for their actions during WWI with regards to the Armenians. Their apologies must be whole-hearted and on a scale similar with those of post-WWII Germany and then they must be integrated into the Turkish education system. A cleansing of the Turkish conscience and a demonstration of their ability to be transparent is absolutely imperative if they have any hope of joining the modern world, let alone the EU. Of course, their potential membership with the EU will not come overnight; it will likely take 20 years.

I was really impressed with Turkey, its people and the general atmosphere. They were much more European than I expected. The question that remains to be resolved is whether Islam and Christianity can peacefully co-exist. The adhesion of Turkey would dramatically shift the demographics of Europe. Can such vast quantities of people come to agreements in an open government forum or do we need to separate them as is done in Israel. If we believe in their compatibility, then I think Turkey has a legitimate case at entering the EU and the EU has a fantastic method of modernizing foreign nations without direct intervention.

Published on October 9, 2006