President Obama speaks at the White House in April last year. (Photo/CNA)
US President Barack Obama vowed during his second-term inaugural speech earlier this week to continue with reforms, develop sustainable energy sources and make his country a fairer society, but as a recognized world leader many of his country's actions may be considered dubious and open to criticism by other countries.
One of the best examples is the series of quantitative easing policies aimed at boosting America's own sluggish economy. The outcome of inflation at home aside, the most controversial aspect of these policies is that the US is subjecting other countries to the potential negative fallout of its stimulus program.
Another contentious policy is the continued refusal to sign the UN-led Kyoto Protocol, despite a worsening climate change scenario about which the administration claims to be concerned.
It remains to be seen whether the US will stick to what Obama has pledged — that his government will take the initiative to respond to climate change and take the lead in shifting to renewable energy, as well as push for the congressional passage of climate-related bills.
The US has also created controversy recently by implementing a bill aimed at cracking down on Americans dodging taxes overseas. According to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became effective this year, the US is demanding overseas banks name their American customers, with a 30% punitive tax to be imposed on banks that refuse to cooperate.
The Act benefits the US in terms of boosting its tax revenues, which will help relieve its fiscal strain and will also be seen as an attempt to pursue better justice in its tax system. However, the US may risk sacrificing the personal privacy of its citizens in other countries for its own advantage and run into a conflict with, for instance, what Taiwan's Personal Information Protection Act seeks to protect.
Additionally, the US should implement the Act on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit. This Act has raised questions about whether Taiwan also has the right to request US banks about personal information concerning its Taiwanese customers.
All in all, even though Obama has sought to attack many of the issues facing his country, whether his approach is just and fair remains open to question, as is the case with many of the reforms being pushed by President Ma Ying-jeou's administration in Taiwan.