Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Salon: Sold! Dubai Ports World's chunk of the red, white and blue

Andrew Leonard:
Dubai Ports World announced today that it had finally completed the sale of its right to operate six American ports to an American company, AIG Global Investment Group.

Back in March, a storm of bipartisan political protest broke out when it was learned that as a result of Dubai Ports World's purchase of U.K.'s Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, an Arab company would gain operational control of vital U.S. transportation infrastructure. At worst, the purchase was depicted as outright treason. Slightly calmer heads saw it as a potent metaphor of globalization gone out of control. How could something so essential to the lifeblood of American commerce -- control of our own ports! -- be bartered and sold by foreigners like so many bales of cotton?
. . .
Funny thing, though -- despite the name, AIG was not originally a U.S.-domiciled company. It was founded in Shanghai in 1919 by an American insurance agent with the glorious name of Cornelius Vander Starr....
Starr was driven out of China by civil war and invasion in the late 1930s, but insurance companies are nothing if not resilient. In 1998, AIG set up shop in one of its old office buildings in the Shanghai Bund.

C.V. Starr, naturally, has been dubbed a "pioneer of globalization." So if you're looking for a metaphor for the global economy, out-of-control or not, AIG is at least as good a flag-bearer as Dubai Ports World.

Some of The Emirates Economist's opinions on the Dubai Ports World acquisition of US ports here, here, and here.

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