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High-Tech Trade Wars

High-Tech Trade Wars: U.S.–Brazillian Conflicts in the Global Economy

Sara Schoonmaker
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    High-Tech Trade Wars
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the conflicts between the United States and Brazilian governments over Brazil's efforts to develop a local computer industry,High-Tech Trade Warsexamines the political struggle between governments and multinational corporations in today's global economy.Sara Schoonmaker uses the technology industry to delve into one of the key political conflicts of our time: the construction of a free trade regime determined to open markets around the world to global capital, and attempts by Latin American, African, and other governments to resist this process. The Brazilian computer case is a prime example of a nationalist effort to promote local growth of a key high-technology industry-an effort that was eventually dismantled under the pressures of what Schoonmaker views as part of a broader process of neoliberal globalization.High-Tech Trade Warspresents a multidimensional view of the globalization process, where economic changes are shaped by political struggle and cultural discourse. It includes interviews with Brazilian industrialists and state officials involved with implementing and, eventually, dismantling Brazil's informatics policy, and discussions of grassroots-level protests organized against neoliberal globalization during the recent WTO meetings in Seattle and Davos, Switzerland.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-9051-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 Globalization, Neoliberalism, and the Brazilian Informatics Case
    (pp. 1-30)

    IN JANUARY 2000 security forces patrolled the streets in Davos, Switzerland, to ensure that protesters would not disrupt the meeting of the elite World Economic Forum. Global economic and political leaders resolved not to allow massive protests such as those that occurred at the November 1999 meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle. In Seattle activists from at least 750 organizations flooded the streets to oppose the WTO’s agenda for opening markets around the world to global capital. Labor, environmental, consumer protection, and other grassroots groups forged innovative alliances. Through street theater, nonviolent resistance, and other forms of...

  2. 2 Information Trade Politics: From Telecommunications to Trade Policy
    (pp. 31-71)

    IN THE 1970S technological change involving telecommunications and computers created new arenas for struggle over global power relations. As it became possible to link computers across the world through telecommunications networks, and to transfer data over those networks to coordinate global production activities, political struggles arose over these emerging sources of economic power. Former Third World governments feared that if they did not control their telecommunications networks and transborder data flows, they would be subjected to a new form of information dependency. Many of these governments viewed national policy regulations as their primary means to defend themselves from the dangers...

  3. 3 Who’s Afraid of Brazilian Informatics?
    (pp. 72-89)

    THE U.S. GOVERNMENT STRATEGY to create a neoliberal international services trade regime was part of a larger effort to promote global U.S. competitiveness in the telecommunications and computer sectors. The U.S. government was concerned about falling behind in these sectors, largely due to what it called the “unfair” trade and investment policies of its major trading partners. Rather than assume that comparative advantage was a natural outcome of market forces, countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan used industrial policies to promote high-technology development. They regulated trade and investment to encourage industrial development, strengthen exports, and acquire technology. In 1986...

  4. 4 The Double Desire: Mediation and Resistance through Software Policy
    (pp. 90-121)

    ON SEPTEMBER 7, 1985, President Reagan announced the initiation of the 301 investigation of Brazilian informatics in his weekly radio address. This was the “first shot” in the high-tech trade war over Brazilian informatics. Brazilians speculated about whether the President had deliberately chosen that date for the announcement; it was Brazil’s independence day, the equivalent of the United States’ Fourth of July. Was this timing calculated to heighten the sting of the investigation and further reprimand Brazil for challenging the place of the United States in the global economic order? Or was it purely coincidental?

    Five years after President Reagan’s...

  5. 5 From Technological Autonomy to Neoliberalism: Constructing an Open Market
    (pp. 122-157)

    THE EARLY 1990S was a turbulent time in Brazilian informatics. Brazilian concessions to international and domestic pressures in the MS-DOS case, and the suspension of U.S. trade sanctions, marked an end to the high-tech trade war with the United States. These events also signaled the beginning of the end of Brazil’s informatics policy. When Fernando Collor became President of Brazil in March 1990, he implemented a series of neoliberal reforms that transformed market conditions in informatics. These included granting permission for technological joint ventures; opening the market to imports; and, in October 1992, approving the end of the market reserve,...

  6. 6 Incipient Denationalization: Brazilian Informatics in 2001
    (pp. 158-170)

    ON 11 JANUARY 2001, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed a new Brazilian informatics law. At a signing ceremony that received much attention in the Brazilian business press, he made a speech that revealed some of the legacies of the Brazilian informatics strategy. He began by warning that he was going to speak about something that “some almost consider heresy.” Some of his remarks resonated with the nationalist discourse of the 1984 informatics policy, with its cultural values of developing national scientific and productive capacities to promote national sovereignty. For example, President Cardoso noted that the future of any nation...

  7. 7 Neoliberal Globalization and Beyond: Protest, Celebration, and Alternatives to Development
    (pp. 171-188)

    THE BRAZILIAN INFORMATICS case was a cardinal example of high-tech development politics in the context of globalization. It involved a series of complex political processes, from the implementation of a nationalist development policy in the face of a high-tech trade war with the U.S. government, to the transition to a neoliberal economic regime. This case provides insights into the nature of international influences on development policy in the former Third World, and into the nature of the globalization process itself. Equally important, it suggests prospects for states and social groups to shape the globalization process, and to respond to the...