Arnold Kling  

Doha Collapse

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Clive Crook writes (link expires next month),


Liberal trade works exactly like a resource-saving technology. So, it makes exactly as much sense for a country to deny itself the advantages of open borders to trade as it would to deny itself the use of personal computers -- another disruptive technology that shares its gains unequally within and among nations. Where my analogy goes wrong is that each government has its own liberal-trade machine, which it can switch on independently if it chooses. No international agreement is needed for a country to unilaterally lower its tariffs or cut its farm subsidies. If it does this, most of the gains (lower prices, lower taxes) flow to its own citizens -- but there are benefits for foreigners, too. For the past five years, each government has been refusing to switch on its own machine unless other governments switch on theirs first. Why should the United States help Europe and Asia, if Europe and Asia won't help the United States? And vice versa. In the end, this week, the governments agreed that the easiest thing was to forget the whole idea. When you put it like that, it just sounds crazy. It is crazy. Nonetheless, this is precisely what happened.

It sometimes seems as though many of the values that I hold in public policy are held with a minus sign by the "international community." Or, as Crook puts it,

Wherever you look, in the United States or abroad, you see capitulation to special interests and an utter lack of ambition and leadership.

Not that we should need a "Doha round" or any such bureaucratic group grope. What we need are leaders whose values that support free trade and individual liberty and citizens who can accept those values.


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CATEGORIES: International Trade



TRACKBACKS (6 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/539
The author at Tim Worstall in a related article titled Trade Talks writes:
    Via Econlog, a truly excellent piece about trade talks and the Doha Round by Clive Crook. Just powering up this free-lunch machine, they say, is going to lift maybe half a billion people out of poverty over the next 15 [Tracked on July 31, 2006 4:28 AM]
The author at Catallarchy in a related article titled Is international trade a prisoner's dilemma? writes:
    Arnold Kling quotes Clive Crook, Liberal trade works exactly like a resource-saving technology. So, it makes exactly as much sense for a country to deny itself the advantages of open borders to trade as it would to deny itself the use of personal co... [Tracked on August 2, 2006 12:13 PM]
COMMENTS (4 to date)
John S Bolton writes:

Not if the resource being 'saved' is freedom from aggression.
Third-world agro-exports are most often stolen goods; they are the products of child labor and/or extorted from women who are treated as farm animals.
Our freedom from aggression should be much more responsibly guarded; receiving stolen goods makes us parties to aggression.
The more that the citizens learn about the horrific child labor circumstances of the not-to-be-rewarded tropical pestholes, the less openness they will tolerate towards exports from those countries.
The more they care about freedom from aggression, and the less they lust after anarchic freedom for aggression, the less openness to foreign stolen goods they will care to see.
The more they could care about the welfare of the natives of the poorest countires, the less they would want to see exports of suchlike stolen goods

Omer K writes:

The only thing that will end child labour in any form (though we in the west have gone too far in this direction) is wealth. Stop a country from using its child labour, and you inadvertantly lower those children's ability to get out of poverty.

Daublin writes:

While in a steady-state situation, low tariffs help a country (and all countries that trade with it), what about *changes* in tariffs?

It seems that countries can attack each other by changing their trade protections rapidly, thus destroying local businesses or causing demand spikes for industries where local businesses do not exist. Maybe this kind of attack can be thwarted if you maintain your own tariffs at the same level as your potential assailants?


I have never seen a serious economist take on this question, and would love to see a stab at it.

nelziq writes:

The problem is that you are not looking ar the right actors. From a single governemnts perspective, it will weigh the concentrated interest of those industries that benefit from trade restrictions against the diffuse interests of the general public in ending trade restrictions. In the standard case, government actors rationally choose trade restriction. The purpose of trade talks is to change the domestic calculus by bringing foreign governments and domestic exporting industries on to the side of lowering trade restrictions. The problem is not that lowering trade restrictions provide net benefits to the nation (they clearly do) but rather which groups within the nation recieve benefits and who loses them and what sort of political influence do those groups have.

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