Arrogance destroyed the World Trade Organisation …

… what replaces it will be even worse. That’s the (slightly premature) headline for my recent article in The Conversation.

The headline will become operative in December, if as expected, the Trump Administration maintains its refusal to nominate new judges to the WTO appellate panel. That will render the WTO unable to take on new cases, and bring about an effective return to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) which preceded the WTO.

An interesting sidelight is that Brexit No-Dealers have been keen on the merits of trading “on WTO terms”, but those terms will probably be unenforceable by the time No Deal happens (if it does).

16 thoughts on “Arrogance destroyed the World Trade Organisation …

  1. I’m having trouble working out the correct line here. We don’t like free trade because it’s neo-liberal and so by extension we don’t like the World Trade Organisation. So we should welcome its demise. But Trump, who we don’t like, doesn’t like free trade either, and he is trying to destroy the WTO. But Elizabeth Warren, who Trump really doesn’t like, and vice versa, and who we might like (remains to be seen, I believe), also doesn’t like free trade and so will be happy to see the end of the WTO (presumably).

    It’s given me a headache. I’m going to have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.

  2. The WTO in the Twenty-First Century basically follows Paul Krugman’s “new trade theory”. This concentrates on the benefits that flow from free trade deals due to increasing returns to scale. In one sense this reduces the reliance on the principle of comparative advantage which concentrates on opportunity cost savings. Krugman postulated that if countries engage in trade specialization they would be able to reduce their LRACs. In economics the optimal production level is were LRACs are lowest. Free trade has side benefits in that domestic consumers are exposed to a wider range of products. The Trade war between the USA and China is more about domestic politics in both countries. As for economic theory the test is value added content. If free trade deals provided value added benefits then they past the economic test. But the political economy debate has moved on to the area of exchange rates and relative pricing.
    Now the question is whether or not a certain country is a currency exchange manipulator. Trumps says China is a manipulator. But China denies this charge. Politicians make up their own minds.

  3. The world is FUBAR. The polite rendition for that acronym is Fouled Up Beyond All Repair. Nobody knows the correct or even a likely viable path forward from this point. Not me, not John Quiggin, not (especially not) Donald Trump. We can all continue spouting opinions but the fact is we are all lost and have no idea of the correct path forward.

    I will put one caveat on the above. Maybe Greta Thunberg can see a path forward. Certainly nobody else can, especially not the “adults” of this world.

  4. Iko, on most measures that matter, such as life expectancy, infant mortality and absence of major wars, the world has never been in better shape. Yes, I know, climate change. Yes, I know, other stuff. But as the great philosopher Oddball said, have a little faith, baby, have a little faith.

  5. Ikonoclast,
    There are reasons that the world is FUNBAR. The number of reasons is probably around 2000. 2000 people are probably 70% of the reason that humanity is up a creek without a paddle. Another 20,000 people make up another 20% of the problem. The rest of us get to share that remaining 10% among ouselves. To defeat the conspiracy of 22,000 would take an even bigger conspiracy of around 200,000 people in the right places to have a 50% chance of success.
    Like you I am a pissed pessimist. I do not think that such a conspiracy can save humanity at this point even if it were to succeed. I am not a person who places much faith in faith. But we can have some fun with those 22,000 at the very painful expense of those 22,000 before we all end up in (close to) the same place, if 200,000 public servants can be mobilized.
    The brains of those 200,000 are the real battleground of this world war.

  6. Hi Smith9! To answer your questions above – Donald Trump is bad because he pointlessly breaks things, because he has the emotional and mental maturity of a toddler. Unfortunately, those things tend to be people’s lives, laws and even countries. But sometimes they are negative, like the Washington Consensus norms of international trade! This doesn’t make him a good person, and he should certainly go to jail, but there really is no need to dishonestly pretend the left is as a monolith adopting a bad faith party line without justification.

    Thanks!

  7. “You humans made us! Now suffer for your arrogance!”
    — Provisions in TPP that over ride state sovereignty.

  8. Ikon: “We can all continue spouting opinions but the fact is we are all lost and have no idea of the correct path forward.”

    Samuel Beckett – Worstward Ho (1983)

    […]

    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

    First the body. No. First the place. No. First both. Now either. Now the other. Sick of the either try the other. Sick of it back sick of the either. So on. Somehow on. Till sick of both. Throw up and go. Where neither. Till sick of there. Throw up and back. The body again. Where none. The place again. Where none. Try again. Fail again. Better again. Or better worse. Fail worse again. Still worse again. Till sick for good. Throw up for good. Go for good. Where neither for good. Good and all.

    It stands. What? Yes. Say it stands. Had to up in the end and stand. Say bones. No bones but say bones. Say ground. No ground but say ground. So as to say pain. No mind and pain? Say yes that the bones may pain till no choice but stand. Somehow up and stand. Or better worse remains. Say remains of mind where none to permit of pain. Pain of bones till no choice but up and stand. Somehow up. Somehow stand. Remains of mind where none for the sake of pain. Here of bones. Other examples if needs must. Of pain. Relief from. Change of.

    All of old. Nothing else ever. But never so failed. Worse failed. With care never worse failed.

    Dim light source unknown. Know minimum. Know nothing no. Too much to hope. At most mereminimum. Meremost minimum.

    No choice but stand. Somehow up and stand. Somehow stand. That or groan. The groan so long on its way. No. No groan. Simply pain. Simply up. A time when try how. Try see. Try say. How first it lay. Then somehow knelt. Bit by bit. Then on from there. Bit by bit. Till up at last. Not now. Fail better worse now.

    Another. Say another. Head sunk on crippled hands. Vertex vertical. Eyes clenched. Seat of all. Germ of all.

    No future in this. Alas yes.

    […]

  9. I will put one caveat on the above. Maybe Greta Thunberg can see a path forward. Certainly nobody else can, especially not the “adults” of this world.

    If Greta Thunberg can see a path forward, either she can show it to other people or she can’t. If she can, that means that other people can see it too. If she can’t, then it’s not much use, is it?

  10. But as the great philosopher Oddball said, have a little faith, baby, have a little faith.

    Yeah, Ikonoclast, why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves?

  11. Only the first four words of John Quiggin’s title are needed:

    “Arrogance destroyed the World.”

    When people ask me to have “faith” I reply sarcastically, “Oh right, so you want me to have blind belief without evidence.”

  12. [ sandpit ]
    Nick, & Ikonoclast. Thanks Nick for the Beckett oassage. I like Beckett, yet your chosen passage Nick, from Worstward Ho for Ikon is wide open to readers imagination as it is “leaving the reader’s imagination with nothing beyond the words”.

    And I assume your interpretation is “Fail better” which is used to justify breaking stuff to get to better disruption. 

    Here is a readers imagination of “Meremost minimum” – 

    “Know minimum. Know nothing no. Too much to hope. At most mere minimum. Meremost minimum.” – Samuel Beckett “I’ll tell you what: I may have *&cked my life up flatter than hammered *&it, but I stand here before you today beholden to no human ****sucker.”
    [ just one and you may search for ref but I won’t link here.  Just an example of words and imaginations. ]

    Very unsure of mine, your’s or Ikon’s interpretation of it tho. I don’t think this is applicable for Ikon. Please correct me Nick or Ikon if my imaginings are off the mark.

    I think Ikon does not live in “an imaginary universe existing in an absolute void”, even if, as Ikon says ” we are all lost and have no idea of the correct path forward”.

    Ikon, you do seem absolute in your denouncememts but as the next comment says ““Oh right, so you want me to have blind belief without evidence.” which I absolutely!!! [ mea culpa! ] agree with.😊
    ***

    “In Worstward Ho, similar autobiographical themes and memories can be found,…. But these characters, figures rather, remain “in dimmost dim, vasts apart” (103), as if the old man, the child, and the old woman are mere archetypes, lacking in all but the shadow of their being, “gnawing to be nought . . . Three pins. One pinhole” (103, ellipsis added). [ Three pins one pinhole invokes all that remains is a skull ]. Hisgen and van der Weel have suggested that Worstward Ho represents Beckett’s last, best attempt to remove all representation from the text, leaving the reader’s imagination with nothing beyond the words, “an imaginary universe existing in an absolute void” (Hisgen and van der Weel 244). 

    Old Age and Samuel Beckett’s Late Works
    by Chris Gilleard a visiting research fellow in the Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Brain Sciences at University College London. With his colleague Paul Higgs he has written extensively on the social economic and cultural reconfigurations of later life”…
    https://ageculturehumanities.org/WP/old-age-and-samuel-becketts-late-works/

  13. JQ “its refusal to nominate new judges to the WTO appellate panel.”

    John Howard did the same imo to the Family Court.

  14. KT2, I don’t think I was offering Ikon a feelgoodism: “sure we try and fail, and sure we’ll fail again, but we keep trying, and we’re bound to do better next time”

    It was possibly more about this:

    “All of old. Nothing else ever. But never so failed. Worse failed. With care never worse failed.”

    Life is the same as it ever was, life has never been any different. But never have we failed *this badly* before. We’ve never failed worse than we have this time around. The best we can hope for is that we *never fail this badly again*.

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