April 23, 2007

US experts call for new trade system (Krishna Guha, April 20 2007, Financial Times)

[The Atlantic Council of the US], which is chaired by two former US commerce undersecretaries, said the struggle to complete the Doha round showed that it was no longer possible to make meaningful progress in a global negotiating system that operated through consensus. It said economies willing to offer large tariff and subsidy cuts need to be able to deal with the “free rider” problem by not extending the same terms to everyone regardless of whether they made equally big concessions – the so-called MFN principle.

A coalition of pro-free trade states should be able to exclude non-participants from taking advantage of tariff cuts in specific product lines, though not from sectoral agreements.

Stuart Eizenstat, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, said this proposal would be compatible with World Trade Organisation rules and the coalition of the willing would agree to use the existing WTO dispute settlement mechanism.

Mr Eizenstat said whether the current Doha trade round yielded an agreement or not, it should be the last of its kind. “The world is moving too fast for this kind of consensus-driven, five, six, seven, eight-year rounds.”

In order to preserve sovereignty, the rulings ought to be merely advisory.



April 16, 2007


November 14, 2006

A Setback for Vietnam Trade Bill (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 11/14/06, NY Times)

In an embarrassing legislative setback for the administration, the House of Representatives defeated a measure late Monday that the president had sought to normalize trade relations with Vietnam, four days before President Bush was scheduled to leave for his first visit to that country. […]

The legislation received a majority vote but fell short of the two-thirds needed for passage under special rules that speeded its consideration in the House. The vote came on the first day of the lame-duck session in which the outgoing House, still controlled by a Republican majority, met to pass crucial bills by the end of this year.

The legislation received 228 votes in favor and 161 against, but it needed 32 more votes to pass on Monday. House Republican leaders said they would bring the legislation back in the next couple of days under normal procedures, which require only a majority, or 218 votes, for passage.

Though perhaps symbolic, the defeat in the House was an embarrassment not only for Mr. Bush but also for the departing Republican leaders, who had earlier in the day expressed confidence that they had the two-thirds needed for the bill to pass in the House.


May 15, 2006

Emerging Nations Powering Global Economic Boom: The expansion is the strongest since the 1970s, with China, India and Russia setting the pace. But many U.S. workers are left behind. (Tom Petruno, May 14, 2006, Los Angeles Times)

The global economy is on a growth streak that is shaping up to be the broadest and strongest expansion in more than three decades.

Rising spending and investment by consumers and businesses worldwide are boosting national economies on every continent, pushing down unemployment rates in many countries and lifting business earnings and confidence.

Of 60 nations tracked by investment firm Bridgewater Associates, not one is in recession — the first time that has been true since 1969.

Yet this is a different kind of boom from any other in the post-World War II era, analysts say. The soaring economies of China, India, Russia, Brazil and other emerging nations increasingly are setting the pace, overshadowing the slower growth of the United States, Europe and Japan, where the benefits of the expansion have eluded many workers.

“This is the first recovery where developing economies are playing a dominant role,” said James Paulsen, chief strategist at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis, which manages money for big investors such as pension funds.

The trend is being driven by free trade, which has created millions of jobs in emerging nations in recent years, fueling stunning new wealth in those countries.

This is a story not only at odds with the facts–strong US GDP growth and low unemployment–but with itself–the jobs in those developing countries consist of doing the manufacturing and other work [answering phones] we’re too wealthy to do ourselves. It does though demonstrate just how powerful the End of History remains — forcing capitalism upon such a wide array of nations — even at a time when folks want to dismiss it.


March 14, 2006

U.S., Malaysia to Launch Free-Trade Talks (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 3/08/06, The Associated Press)

The United States and Malaysia announced Wednesday that they have agreed to begin negotiating a free trade deal to eliminate trade barriers between the two nations.

The decision was announced at a crowded Capitol Hill news conference attended by lawmakers from both political parties, marking an effort by the administration to build bipartisan support for its trade policies at a time when the country is running record trade deficits.

By selecting Malaysia for free trade negotiations, the administration chose a country that is already America’s 10th largest trading partner with $44 billion in two-way trade. The administration announced last month that it planned to launch free trade negotiations with South Korea and free trade talks with Thailand, another economic power in the region, are already under way.

And, luckily, the Right is too stupid to know they’re Muslims.


December 6, 2005

From Seattle to Hong Kong: There have been eight rounds of multilateral trade negotiations prior to Doha. Although they all ended well, it is important to remember that few went smoothly. Negotiators in Hong Kong now face real obstacles, but there is reason for hope — if, that is, they have the will and courage to do what is necessary to succeed. (Jagdish Bhagwati, December 2005, Foreign Affairs)

There were eight successful rounds of multilateral trade negotiations (MTN) under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The first round of talks were held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1947 and the last was launched in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 1986. This last round was concluded in 1994 in Marrakesh, Morocco, and led to the creation of the GATT’s successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Although they might seem like successes in retrospect, it is important to recall that few of these MTNs went smoothly. Moreover, with each successive round, the negotiators’ task has grown more complex, even as their ability to close trade deals has increasingly been impaired by the greater visibility of the process and the growing involvement of a variety of lobbies and stakeholders. The issues have also become more complicated, thanks to the proliferation of non-trade barriers and to sectors such as agriculture that had earlier been shunted aside by waivers. So it is hardly surprising that the Uruguay Round of talks took nearly eight years to complete and suffered midway breakdowns and cascading crises of confidence, whereas the preceding Tokyo Round took five years and the previous rounds took much less. […]

[T]he central breakthrough at Cancún was the emergence of the Group of 20 (G-20), led by Brazil, India, and South Africa. Seen at first as spoilers, these countries had played a negligible role in earlier negotiating rounds. Press coverage of the MTNs tended to focus almost exclusively on the interplay between the European and the American trade representatives, who were treated as the stars of the trade talks with others sidelined to obscurity. At Cancún, however, this dynamic finally changed. Celso Amorim, Brazil’s foreign minister, made a dramatic stand, planting the flag of the developing world on the MTN map and forcing the media to pay attention to its interests. In past years, the Quad — the United States, the EU, Japan, and Canada — had set the terms of the negotiations. After Cancún, however, the agenda was set by a new Group of 5, which included the United States, the EU, Brazil, India, and Australia (as a representative of the Cairns Group of 17 agriculture-exporting countries).

Cancún thus represented a triumph for developing countries, which suddenly gained recognition and a political stake in the negotiations. Indeed, the G-20 even managed to demand successfully that the EU and the United States go back to the drawing board and come back with improved offers on agricultural subsidies and trade barriers. This development augurs well for the future, since effective negotiations can occur only among equals; finally, representatives from Washington and Brussels face opponents their own size (or near to it).

Even the fact that the Cancún talks did not wrap up the Doha Round should not be seen as a failure. After all, at the time of Cancún, the Doha Round was only two years old. Both the Tokyo and Uruguay Rounds had taken much longer to close. Finishing Doha so quickly would have taken a miracle, and miracles do not happen in trade. […]

The most difficult issue is lowering agricultural protections; in recent months, Washington and Brussels have lobbed related offers and counteroffers at each other without much progress. The EU itself is divided between France and its allies, which oppose making any serious concessions, and the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries, which favor accommodation.

The French opposition to the liberalization of agricultural trade rules seems animated by the popular and populist conviction that reducing such barriers would constitute an attack on both French agriculture and French culture.

Just make it a frontal assault on France and cut them out of the trade scheme.


November 16, 2005

‘Manufacturers of Misery’ Oppose Free Trade: By rejecting Washington’s plan for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, according to this editorial from Spain’s El Diario Exterior, ‘the manufacturers of misery, who are stuck in slogans of the 1970s, have dynamited’ what was a chance to ‘replace poverty and under-development with trade and a market economy.’ (November 15, 2005, El Diario Exterior – Original Article (Spanish) (via


November 16, 2005

At the Heart of Europe?: Two hundred years after William Pitt took on Napoleon, Europe is in crisis again. Keith Robbins warns Tony Blair that there are no easy fixes to the issues of democracy that have thrown the ‘European project’ off course. (Keith Robbins, December 2005, History Today)

It is arguable that in its various phases from the construction of the Coal and Steel Community onwards, ‘Europe’ could only have begun to cohere because of the enthusiasm, commitment, even deviousness, of an ‘undemocratic’ elite. In the case of the founding six states that signed the Treaty of Rome, in 1957, however, the political context in which its members worked was one in which the nation-states as they had existed in pre-1939 Europe, had ‘failed’ (in a manner that did not apply to the United Kingdom).

The EEC was of course only a partial ‘Europe’. Its founding members were all ‘democracies’ but they had come to their democracies by different routes. Germany was divided in a Europe in which ‘people’s’ democracies faced those of the West. ‘European’ (i.e. a certain sort of Western Europe) consolidation made economic sense and in particular gave a firm foundation to the desirable reconciliation between France and Germany. There was, however, an ambivalent relationship between ‘democracy’ and ‘integration’. ‘Integration’, whatever it precisely entailed, could certainly draw upon a widespread if imprecise notion that a ‘new beginning’ was required. ‘Christian democracy’, at least as espoused by parties that took that label, suggested a transnational ideology. Likewise ‘democratic Socialists’ differentiated themselves from Communists. These similarities made at least a meeting of minds possible. Integrationist minds, however, seeking what they deemed to be a greater good, were somewhat wary of ‘democratic control’. It might be necessary to suppose that both Nazism in Germany or Fascism in Italy had been ‘imposed’ on the ‘people’ but that was not the whole picture. The ‘people’ might again emerge unregenerate and in a xenophobic frame of mind. Democratic governments should, at appropriate moments, seek the ratification of the people for what they had decided to do, but there was a suspicion of decision-making by perpetual referendum. Use of the referendum by authoritarian regimes had shown how easily wording could be manipulated. Its use in Switzerland simply confirmed the prejudice that Switzerland was the exception to everything. […]

The successive enlargements of the Community on its way to the present European Union have had a kind of ‘democratic’ objective. Greece, Spain and Portugal, as early ‘new members’ in the 1980s, had all been nursed into democracy after their periods of authoritarian rule. One of the most compelling arguments for the EU’s recent and dramatic expansion to include the former Communist states of East-Central Europe was that common membership of the ‘democratic club’ would strengthen their own newly democratic cultures and structures. Such a mission was seen as laudable, no matter what stresses and strains might accompany it. It was the existing member governments, not the people, that agreed admissions and enlargements. The governments of applicant countries have been keen to get in and (Norway excepted) have obtained the necessary popular endorsement of membership on the terms that were offered them. What a referendum in existing member states might have said about enlargement is another matter.

The result, from Estonia to Portugal and from Ireland to Greece, has been the creation of a kind of ‘Europe’ that would not have been imaginable in 1955, let alone by William Pitt in 1805. It brings together some states that have had deep relationships over centuries and others whose interaction has been minimal. It is a democratic ‘Europe’ without precedent. And yet, a clear majority of Dutch and French voters have rejected the Constitution. Possibly for contradictory reasons, the Constitution was found unacceptable.

Sure, it was great fun for continental bureaucrats to impose an EU anti-democratically when they imagined it would consolidate power in their own hands. But now that the only feasible use for it is as a trade union, imposing economic liberalization on the older democracies and stripping power away from bureaucrats, they’ve fallen out of love with it.


November 15, 2005

Blair urges EU and US to break world trade logjam (Lisbeth Kirk, 15.11.2005, EU Observer)

To revitalise stalled world trade talks, the EU and the US must make further concessions, Tony Blair has urged ahead of an important world trade summit in Hong Kong next month.

Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall in London on Monday evening (14 November) the UK Prime Minister and current head of the EU Council told the US and the EU to move ahead.

Mr Blair picked up on an offer from US President George Bush, who recently in a speech to the UN called for the removal of all agricultural and industrial subsidies, and said the US would do it if other countries did too. […]

Brussels on the other hand insists it has gone as far as it can, given the resistance of some EU members such as France against offering further concessions.

It’s absurd to let vile nations like France and Venezuela hold up a deal, just cut them out of the process.


October 28, 2005

Change your ways, or no WTO, US warns Vietnam (Aaron Glantz and Ngoc Nguyen, 10/29/05, Asia Times)

Vietnam’s attempts to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been blocked by what the country’s negotiators say are unacceptable new demands by Washington that the socialist country change the way its economy works – more than it already has. […]

For the past 15 years, Vietnam has been changing the way it does business, though perhaps not to the extent Washington would like to see it.

It has embraced market economy, attracted factory jobs from overseas, and towering new buildings have sprung up in the capital and in Ho Chi Minh City. In 2002, foreign investors poured more than US$1.2 billion into Vietnam, and the country seems all set to enter the world’s official club of capitalist nations.

Yet, the administration of US President George W Bush has been pressuring Vietnam to eliminate subsidies and state-owned enterprises. Talks with negotiators from Washington have broken down over what Vietnam maintains are “new conditions” introduced in recent rounds of talks. […]

In April, Oxfam released a report entitled “Do as I Say, Not as I Do: The Unfair Terms for Vietnam’s Entry to the WTO”, which noted that Vietnam is being forced to cut tariffs and subsidies twice as much as neighbors such as Thailand, the Philippines and Nepal. Those countries are already members of the world body.

“For any country, joining the WTO is like jumping into a fast-moving river in the dark without a paddle,” said Steve Price-Thomas, Oxfam’s spokesman in Hanoi. “It’s hard to know for sure what will happen but the important thing is if you jump into a fast-moving river at night you want to make sure you’ve got a life belt, a flashlight, know which way you’re headed, that there’s no rocks, etc. So we hope that Vietnam is ready and prepared for life in the club of the WTO.”

Want to be treated like a democratic ally? Become one.