An Interview with the Leader of the World Trade Organization

September 2, 2011

http://www.cnbc.com/id/44352671

Here’s something rich!  Yesterday, the leader of the WTO (World Trade Organization) stated that there’s no way that the world can return to “protectionism.”  (See the above link.)  If only the CNBC reporter who took the interview was well-versed enough to know that the WTO is the world’s biggest practitioner of protectionism, the interview could’ve gotten interesting.  Perhaps it’d have gone something like this:

CNBC:  But Mr. Lamy, doesn’t the WTO actually use protectionist policies to the benefit of undeveloped and developing nations, including China?

Lamy:  No, no.  Those policies are what we refer to at the WTO as “developmentism.”

CNBC:  So “developmentism” works well for these nations?

Lamy:  Oh, very well, indeed!  Just look at how successful it has been in China.  Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty.

CNBC:  But “developmentism” isn’t applied evenly.  What do you call the policies applied to other nations, the U.S. being the prime example?

Lamy:  That’s free trade.  Free trade is a marvelous thing that has been very beneficial for the U.S. in many ways.

CNBC:  In what ways, exactly?

Lamy:  Many ways.  Ways that are difficult to quantify and thus difficult for the average American to comprehend. 

CNBC:  So developmentism works well for some nations while free trade is better for others?

Lamy:  I guess you could put it that way.

CNBC:  So when does “developmentism” stop being the right trade policy for a nation as opposed to free trade?  Have any nations developed yet to the point where they graduate from “developmentism” to free trade?

Lamy:  No.

CNBC:  I’m confused.  If “developmentism” helps a nation develop, then wouldn’t the continued use of “developmentism” by wealthy nations allow them to develop even further? 

Lamy:  No.  The use of “developmentism” by wealthy nations is actually “protectionism.” 

CNBC:  How does that work?  How does “developmentism” morph into “protectionism” when it’s actually the same set of trade practices? 

Lamy:  Oh, look at the time.  I’ve got to run.  I’m late for a dinner with Chinese trade delegates.  We must talk more again some time. 

There are actually a couple of aspects of this article that I found encouraging.  First, that Lamy is jittery enough about the potential for a return of protectionism in the U.S. that he feels it necessary to speak out against it.  Secondly, read the comments by readers.  (My own is amongst them.)  With one exception, readers were unanimous in their criticism of Lamy and the WTO. 

I also found it interesting that, shortly after I posted my comment, the article was yanked from CNBC’s front page and I actually had to do a word search to find it again.  Not that my comment alone was responsible, but the tidal wave of negative comments. 

As I wrote my comment, a thought occurred to me that will be the subject of an upcoming post.