International -- Readers Report
Has Amazon Lost Its Place? (int'l edition)
Amazon.com Inc. doesn't glitter so much these days ("Amazon and Yahoo: All that glitters...," American News, Jan. 8). Since 1997, I have bought about 45 business books from Amazon, and I have always been very pleased with the convenience of the site, the prices, and the deliveries. Until lately, that is. This year, the prices are higher, and I canceled my most recent order (for two books said to be available in two to three days) after the books in question had not been shipped two weeks later.
I tried Barnes & Noble Inc. for the first time. No, the site still doesn't match Amazon's, but my books were shipped promptly and at a better price. In the future, Amazon.com may sell more kitchenware, greeting cards, and holiday decorations--but perhaps fewer books.
Jean Roger Debonneville
Pully, SwitzerlandReturn to top
A Latin Free-Trade Pact Would Harm Asia (int'l edition)
After a visit to South America, your columnist Gary Becker urges the U.S. to create a free trade area with its Southern Cone neighbors, on the grounds that it would foster economic reforms and increase prosperity ("It's time for NAFTA to look farther south," Economic Viewpoint, Jan. 8).
I encourage him to visit East Asia and Australia, where he would also find potential willing partners and a desire to prosper. While free trade areas confer benefits on their members, they do so by discriminating against nonmember countries. Argentina and Chile would benefit in part at the expense of Australia and Thailand.
Americans have a strong interest in prosperity and democracy everywhere, not exclusively in southern South America. The main focus of any U.S. trade policy should be multilateral, not just regional.
Richard N. Cooper
Cambridge, Mass.Return to top
Beating the Drum for the Dollar in Ecuador (int'l edition)
Ecuador has been dollarized since mid-January, 2000 ("The dollar club: Why countries are so keen to join," Economic Viewpoint, Dec. 11). Although President Jamil Mahuad made the decision to dollarize two weeks before he left office, the real hero in Ecuador's dollarization was neither the government nor the legislature, but the private sector, where the idea originated.
While the private-sector proponents were beating the drum for dollarization, Mahuad and his economic cabinet members were "fiddling while Ecuador burned." Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund and Lawrence H. Summers of the U.S. Treasury Dept. were advising Mahuad not to dollarize. Fortunately, the private sector voices were heard and prevailed.
The hard part is still ahead for Ecuador and its citizens: the implementation of the IMF accord, of which very little has been executed so far, the reinvention of a sound financial system, numerous privatizations of public institutions, and a coherent program for bringing huge amounts of foreign investment into the country. None of the foregoing appear to be on the horizon in Ecuador.
Thomas C. Trauger
Guayaquil, EcuadorReturn to top