Comic book critics

I am amazed by how lit­tle the eco­nom­ic press under­stands the WTO.  It’s by no means an obscure orga­ni­za­tion; nor is it unim­po­rant[⇒ relat­ed sto­ry]. But typ­i­cal assess­ments of the col­lapse of the Can­cún talks are naive (to use a gen­tle word). Robert Kut­ner asks”>http://www.prospect.org/webfeatures/2003/09/kuttner-r-09–18.html”>asks in Amer­i­can Prospect why the ‘poor coun­tries appar­ent­ly shot them­selves in the foot’ in pulling the plug on nego­ti­a­tions at Can­cún

(link to col­lec­tors site)”:http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rich10/jb/gallery.htm
” The answer is that the sys­tem is rigged against poor and vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries, and these nations have had a bel­ly­ful. ”

This is overblown puff. The sys­tem is not ‘rigged against poor and vul­ner­a­ble’ coun­tries at all; only some­one whose knowl­edge of WTO is gained from—oh, I don’t know; maybe ‘Clas­sics’ com­ic books’—could advance such a sil­ly the­o­ry. Ask your­self whether such claims even pass a plau­si­bil­i­ty test. If the sys­tem were ‘rigged against poor and vul­ner­a­ble’ coun­tries, how is it that these coun­tries have crashed the sys­tem twice in four years (Seat­tle and Can­cún)? In the real world, where grown-ups try to deal with the com­plex task of man­ag­ing a coop­er­a­tive ven­ture between 148 nation­al gov­ern­ments that is the glob­al sys­tem of trade rules, it’s dif­fi­cult to reach an agree­ment that meets broad acceptance—normally sig­nalled by a con­sen­sus deci­sion.  Bul­ly­ing and bla­tant hypocrisy, such as Mr Kut­ner alledges, don’t buy con­sen­sus in WTO any more than they do else­where. They are, in prac­tice, rather rare and unsus­tain­able. In a flight of indig­na­tion, Kut­ner doesn’t man­age to get his facts straight. He sup­pos­es, wrong­ly[⇒ relat­ed sto­ry], that the break­ing point at Can­cún was agri­cul­ture or per­haps the NAMA(‘Non Agri­cul­tur­al Mar­ket Access&#8217)negotiations. bq. The coun­tries that revolt­ed at Can­cun are all too aware that with an elec­tion com­ing up, George Bush is not like­ly to cut sub­si­dies on farm­ers in mid­west­ern swing states; that Bush is also on the spot for lost U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs. Any grand bar­gain that appealed to the Third World would only increase U.S. imports of farm prod­ucts and man­u­fac­tured goods. The devel­op­ing nations pre­ferred to scrap these nego­ti­a­tions and start over, rather than lend legit­i­ma­cy to a most­ly one-sided deal and the illu­sion of progress. (Of course, it wasn’t a ‘revolt’ either. You can’t ‘revolt’ against a club in which you have the same deci­sion-mak­ing rights as every oth­er mem­ber.) And his solu­tion? Well it’s a mix­ture of ‘spin’ words and urban myth (about the “evil IMF(link to the best all-round rebut­tal of this the­o­ry by Ken Rogoff)”:http://www.imf.org/external/np/vc/2003/021003.htm) bq. The admin­is­tra­tion and its allies in the IMF and WTO need to aban­don their con­ceit that one recipe fits all. They’d need to allow poor coun­tries some of the same pub­lic-pri­vate devel­op­ment strate­gies that the Unit­ed States and Europe have used to good effect and cut them more slack dur­ing finan­cial crises. Kut­ner appar­ent­ly doesn’t know that # there is no attempt to make ‘one recipe fit all’. If he’d both­ered to read any of the pro­posed deci­sions he’d find that they twist into fan­tas­tic knots in order to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between appro­pri­ate poli­cies in devel­oped and devel­op­ing coun­tries
# the devel­op­ing coun­tries are among the strongest pro­po­nents of a basi­cal­ly uni­form sys­tem of e.g. dis­putes enforce­ment because they are (rea­son­ably) con­cerned that the USA and the EU will defect from a sys­tem that allows too many ‘cop outs’

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