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January 24, 2005

Panitchpakdi Leadership to End this Year.

Sorry for the absence, but I’ve just gotten back from a three-week course in Bangkok on cross-cultural negotiation. Probably the most open trade market in South East Asian, Thailand is a major player in the global trade. Since September 2002, the WTO has been led by Supachai Panitchpakdi, a prominent banker and former Deputy Prime Minister. Panitchpakdi is widely credited with rescuing Thailand’s economy during the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s and with motivating Thailand to ratify the Uruguay Round Agreement in 1993. Panitchpakdi shared the six-year term with Mike Moore after the WTO could not decide between the two in 1999. Moore led during the rockiest term of the WTO as anti-globalization rose and the ministerial conference in Seattle was a complete failure. Panitchpakdi became the first director from a developing nation. Under his watch, China formally joined the WTO, as did Armenia, Cambodia, Taiwan, and Nepal bringing the total membership to 148. This week, Pantichpakdi touted the release of a report by a committee formed two years ago on the "Future of the WTO."

The future, the committee concludes, is bright and free trade will expand. However, there are many threats to the WTO including the erosion of nondiscrimination clauses. Countries are continually signing into Preferential Trade Agreements. Jagdish Bhagwati discusses these agreements and other concerns that he and other members of the committee had about the future of the WTO.

The report also included an analysis of the WTO’s working past. Pantichpakdi’s reign has included a number of successes and failures for the WTO, though the organization seems more relevant today than ever. Some of the more memorable events of the last three years include:

September, 2003 talks in Cancun collapsed after fights over farm subsidies. For the first time developing countries stood up to the more powerful countries against an ‘unfair’ deal.

August, 2004 Geneva talks get the US and EU to reduce farm subsidies and developing countries agree to cut tariffs on manufactured goods.

And of course, the last few years have been highlighted by consistent rulings against US domestic laws such as the steel tariffs, cotton subsidies and the Bryd amendment.

I think Pantichpakdi gave developing countries if not some, a little, confidence to stand up to the developed countries in negotiating trade deals. Whether this is good or not, is a difficult question but despite the failed Cancun talks, the three year term has been a success. The dispute resolution system has matured and gained respected.

The Mises Economic Blog posted a report last week that Pantichpakdi would take the following 5 books with him to a deserted island: "He lists a book on chess, one by a communist, one by a social democrat, Sophie's Choice, and: the new Bruce Caldwell book Hayek's Challenge."

I will continue to look at the candidates beginning tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!!!

Posted by Chris H. Anderson at 02:07 PM in International Trade | Permalink


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