Thursday, December 09, 2004

Lamy's Got a Gun

Showing the sort of unanimity that is possible for EU member states on issues where the smaller weaker members perceive no independent interest and would be loathe to be seen obstructing the wishes of the major EU powers, the EU-25 has come to agreement to present the French Socialist Pascal Lamy as the common European candidate to head the World Trade Organization. Interviewed by the German weekly Die Zeit in May 2002 [link in German] regarding the trade spat pitting the EU versus the US on the subject of steel tariffs introduced by the Bush administration the previous March, the then EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy remarked: “We have a revolver and the finger is on the trigger.” The revolver to which Lamy was alluding was the EU proposal to place retaliatory tariffs on US products if the US tariffs on European steel were not removed. The proposed retaliatory tariffs, moreover, cleverly targeted goods in battleground states that would be crucial to George W. Bush’s re-election: Florida orange juice, Harley-Davidson motor bikes produced in Wisconsin and so on. While tit-for-tat retaliatory actions among states are the normal stuff of trade disputes, this proposal represented, in effect, a sort of attempted blackmail of a sitting American government – which is another matter altogether and arguably violates the international law principle of non-interference in domestic affairs.

An article on the Lamy candidacy in yesterday’s edition of Le Figaro [link in French] notes that “an ability to lead and communicate” constitutes one of the three principal criteria according to which a WTO Director-General is supposed to be selected. During the EU-US steel dispute, Pascal Lamy displayed an outstanding ability to communicate threats. It would be highly inimical to American interests to see the self-styled EU hitman Pascal Lamy become the Director-General of the WTO.