Eastwind journals are the personal journalistic writings of Bernie Lopez, and are not part of the healing ministry. Any views or comments are his own and does not reflect those of the ministry.
WTO – ABOLISH OR AMEND
By Bernie Lopez, email@example.com
WTO chief Pascal Lamy is in a last ditch effort to save the failed Doha Round. He proposes “the WTO members to agree to bite size chunks rather than swallowing the whole indigestible whole” (Reuters). There is a scent of despair in these words. Is this the last resort? What if the chunks are also indigestible?
Until the basic issue shifts from ‘take it from me’ to ‘give and take’, until the rich nations make the sacrifices to appease the demands of the poor nations, until the poor nations also become less demanding and be more open, nothing will work. Although the nature of consensus is bilateral, the dominant force has a greater role. Although the ball is in the hands of those who authored and controlled the WTO, the underdog also has a role to help bridge the gap. Ironically, consensus is harder to achieve in an era of a global economic crunch.
The utter failure of the WTO springs from the fact that the rich nations, who authored and controlled it, had a different agenda from their rhetoric. They articulated free trade, but free trade was never fair trade. ‘Free’ resulted in more slavery and economic subservience. The goal of ‘bridging the rich-poor gap’ they articulated resulted in further widening. Their motive was more of control, not more of sharing. They seduced the weaker nations into their game, where they were in charge. It was in fact more of coercion than seduction. The WTO rhetoric was “join us or suffer isolation”, forcing poor nations to the bargaining table they knew very little about. When the poor nations began to see the light and to discern the true nature of the ‘game’, it was the beginning of the end.
So the failure of the Uruguay Round was followed by the failure of the Doha Round. Seattle and Hongkong became battlefields. It seems it is the nature of Man to fail to achieve the elusive cooperation-not-competition, the sharing-not-the-greed. Sincerity was replaced by eloquence. The agenda was reduced to ‘convince’ with new types of ‘creative’ options, not to ‘appease’ or compromise. It seems Man will never learn to live in a community of harmony. It seems the true nature of Man is conflict and war, whether in territory or commerce.
At the heart of the issue of ‘compromisability’ is the fact that highly-paid WTO consultants are hired by governments to protect its interest. They are by nature attack dogs ready to defend patrimony rather than succumb to compromise. The WTO therefore is a forum of attack dogs. There is very little compromise environment. It is a Machiavellian court of expert lawyers and traders. Poor nations were not even able to afford getting expensive WTO consultants, or set up a WTO office. Would that these governments hire a different type of animal for a different type of WTO forum where the primacy is compromise rather than non-negotiability.
The rise of the economies in the East and the decline of the economies in the West, the radical and rapid shift in balance of global economies, seem to make WTO less relevant and acceptable. The much simpler bilateral trade is growing by leaps and bounds as the complex unilateral forum breaks down. One-on-one seems more practical than all-in-one.
We are now in an era where, if WTO fails once more in the renewed Doha, it will die a slow death. Abolish or amend are the only recourse. There is no need to abolish because it will die a natural death. The last glimmer of hope lies in the word ‘amend’, which is more of the heart rather than of the mind. Lamy’s quantitative divide and reconcile will not work. We are beyond the cerebral formulas to make trade free and fair all at once. The issue is qualitative, not quantitative. We are at a point where the acid test is in our gentle hearts, not in our shrewd minds. How do you qualitatively ‘amend’ WTO from the heart? How do we reconcile the ‘non-negotiable’ to the ‘negotiable’? These are the ultimate questions. firstname.lastname@example.org