Friday, May 13, 2005

Lamy Calling?

If the rumors reported in this article by Alan Oxley from TCS are correct, Pascal Lamy could be announced as the next Director General of the WTO by later today. An article in this morning's Le Figaro [link in French] suggests the same, noting that India, which hitherto insisted that the head of the WTO should come from a developing country, has swung into the Lamy camp. According to Le Figaro, citing diplomatic sources, there is "little doubt" about the outcome.

Imagining what a WTO under Lamy's leadership might be like, Alan Oxley notes:

Getting by is what matters in Europe, not the basic principles. This has always been the EU's approach to the WTO. It values the WTO as an organization to manage awkward trade problems with big players, like the US, Japan and now China, not as an organization to require big players to stick to the free trade rules.

So when the EU bows to pressure from the World Wide Fund for Nature to overturn free trade rules to use trade coercion to enforce environmental standards or from organized labor or Oxfam to use trade coercion to enforce labor rules, it calls on the rest of the world to go along. It doesn't tell those NGOS that WTO rules don't permit that.

So why should India, China and the US be content to have as boss of the WTO someone who believes that?

I would only add to this that when the EU bows to pressure from the World Wide Fund for Nature, it is in fact largely "bowing to pressure" from certain of its own, notably wealthier, member states - or even indeed "pressure" from itself. As Ray Evans notes in his "The Atlantic Rift", Germany and Holland are major contributors to the WWF. And as this 2003 document [pdf-file] shows, the WWF's European Policy Office in Brussels is funded to the tune of some 618,000 euros, representing 28% of its total budget, by the European Commission itself. This sort of incestuous relationship between European institutions and so-called "non-governmental organizations" - they would often be more appropriately labeled "para-governmental organizations" - reveals what a sham supposed "civil society" is in the EU.

Today could be a very dark day for free trade. In the future, states that resist complying with EU policy prescriptions may well hear Pascal Lamy, the Dirty Harry of world trade, gently reminding them: "We have a revolver and the finger is on the trigger."

(Note: For background to this post, see "Lamy's Got a Gun", parts I and II, and "Lamy's Got a Friend".)