We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata slogan of the day

The humbling of the WTO not only worsens economic prospects for the developing countries (as well as for the rest of the world) but also shifts the balance of global political power from poor to rich – perhaps decisively, and who knows for how many years. That is what the developing countries’ champions are so busy celebrating.
The Economist

12 comments to Samizdata slogan of the day

  • Jacob

    “shifts the balance of global political power from poor to rich – perhaps decisively”
    What do they mean by “shifts” ? Where has “global political power” allways resided ?
    Will the failure of the WTO matter ? Not very much. It is , like the rest of the UN, an irrelevant body. Trade takes place naturally, to some degree or other. The WTO never made any difference, except in providing jobs to fat bureucrats.
    The whole idea of having a world bureucracy to regulate trade (or anything else) is absurd.

  • Ah, if only what The Economist has written was true.

  • James Stapleton

    Jacob: you may be right, but the WTO is not part of the UN.

  • Russ Goble

    I’m with Jacob. Are the folks at Samizdata actually in favor of the WTO as a means justify their free trade ends sort of mindset? I guess I could buy that argument if I thought the WTO had a chance in hell of increasing free trade. The humbling of the WTO, in this case, won’t result in the rich being more powerful than developing nations. The humbling of the WTO, in this instance, was a RESULT of rich countries ALREADY being more powerful.

    Basically, the rich countries have the luxury of shirking the rules put forth by the WTO. I would quibble though that it’s just like the U.N. (is the WTO actually part of the UN? I thought it was separate). In the U.N., it seems to be the poor countries that have the luxury of breaking the rules.

    I agree that the PRINCIPLES behind the WTO would probably benefit the developing countries and that the anti-WTO crowd are basically Luddites who would rather see poor nations stay “pure” and un-industrialized. But, I don’t think the WTO itself can do a heck of a lot to improve the lives and economies of those places.

  • A_t

    The WTO, like the UN is a talking shop; you’re right, action can only be taken by individual countries, but both institutions provide a forum for the discussion of issues. To denigrate negociation & the creation of forums for negociation is short-sighted. The WTO was formed, & exists to further things you guys are supposedly all in favour of. It’s national governments which stand in the way of global free trade, not the WTO which has done the most it can to encourage it.

  • I think those purists who decry the WTO are unrealistic. Free Trade can be done one unilaterally or multilaterally.

    Realistically the horse trading that goes on at the WTO is the only way to prise open markets where nation-states are unwilling to open their markets unilaterally. Such is the nature of international politics.

    Its all very well saying the WTO does not promote free trade but who does?

    The WTO is on balance a liberalising progressive counter-balance to nationalistic protectionism.

  • Lorenzo

    I agree with Paul Staines and At, you can decry the lack of progress at the WTO and its many bureaucratic foibles but rest assured the world won’t be a better place if it disappears. Imagine how 3rd world countries will fare negotiating bilateral treaties with Washington and Brussels. They will get quotas instead of free trade and those quotas won’t come cheap. Access to markets will for example be used to change behaviour i.e. don’t chop down trees or mandatory labour policies a la social charter.

    There is lots I would change about the WTO but I have to agree with the Economist on this one.

  • Jonathan L

    The WTO critics are missing the point. Although I hate the I win You lose way in which negotiations take place for an all win proposition (free trade) the WTO is by far the most successful of the global bodies.

    Without the world trade organisation, I doubt very much if trade would be as free as it is. Politicians who are adverse to free trade have been cajuled into enabling their citizens to trade freely to a degree unimaginable a few decades ago. Therefore I find the whole Cancun thing worrying.

    We shouldn’t need an authority to “govern” world trade, but until everyone understands that the most fundamental human right is the freedom for individuals to interact (including trade) with whomever they wish and in the manner of their own choosing, I’m afraid such an anacronism is probably necessary.

    The only thing that gives me hope is the immoral plunder that is the CAP has become the topic of the day, in areas where free trade has long been suspect. In that respect, the Cancun meeting may be a small stepping stone towards a free agricultural trade future.

  • HTY

    I’m with Jonathan L. The WTO is not totally worthless. Members must abide by their judgments during trade disputes. The famous turtle excluder device controversy comes to mind. Even though the ruling was against the US, the US abided by the ruling.

  • Zathras

    The WTO is the product of an American policy promoting fewer government restrictions on international trade that goes back to the Roosevelt administration. That does not mean that the WTO, or free trade, benefits only the United States, but it does mean American support for it is contingent on it benefiting the United States.

    At the moment, however, trade policy in America is mortgaged to the requirements of domestic politics. One of these is that both interests hurt and those helped by freer trade have to be listened to, but those hurt by it have louder voices. Hence, among other things, the steel tariffs imposed last year and the last farm bill. What this means is that the United States has very little flexibility to move forward on trade liberalization in the WTO — nearly any major proposal it could conceivably make would require either the White House or Congress (or both) to reverse themselves on recently adopted policies that protect constituencies in key states.

    By January 2005 this may have changed. On the other hand, it may be that support in the United States for freer trade has passed its high water mark. In any event, between now and then what the Bush administration (specifically, USTR Zoellick) will try to do is liberalize trade with individual countries in bilateral negotiations, which at least as the potential to keep some momentum going in the right direction.

    As for the Economist quote, I agree with other posters who have pointed out it confuses the result of Cancun’s collapse with its cause. More precisely, progress toward trade liberalization in key sectors like agriculture can only come if the so-called Group of 21 wants the same thing as one of the major trade factions in the developed world — and (especially in agriculture) its objectives are most compatible with the historical objectives of the United States. I use the somewhat weaselly-sounding phrase “historical objectives” because it is not clear to me that the current administration views them as much of a priority at all. One can look at this as a radical departure from the orientation of past Republican administrations or as an illustration of the similarities the Bush administration has with its Democratic predecessor.

  • Jacob

    ” The WTO was formed, & exists to further things you guys are supposedly all in favour of.”

    Very true, but you confuse declared intentions with outcomes. That the WTO was formed with the declared intention of promoting free trade does not mean that this is what it does. What it does is to promote regulated trade (they beeing the regulators, rather than national governments).
    That this might be what “you guys are supposedly all in favor of” shows some deep missunderstanding. We are very opposed to a world bureaucracy regulating “free” trade or anything else. Free trade means free trade and no government do-gooders in the middle. Free trade is trade that is free of regulations.

  • Jacob

    The WTO approach rests on this principle: I will do you a favor and make a scrifice by opening my borders to trade; in exchance you will return the favour, and make a sacrifice for me and open your borders.
    This is the mercantilistic approach and is FALSE.
    Free trade benefits first and foremost the country that opens it’s borders, no matter what others do. It is not a sacrifice but a benefit. No negociations are needed, no tit for tat. The benefit of free trade does not depend on what others do. That other countries open their borders too is good, and will enhance general well beeing, but it is not an indispensable part of free trade. If some countries wish to remain closed and poor – that is their privilege.

    “The WTO, like the UN is a talking shop”
    How true ! talking mostly nonesense. The one thing they do promote is the notion that huge national and international bureaucracies are needed to regulate “free” trade.