James Traub on Promoting Democracy Through Free Trade

James Traub:  Well, we’ve obviously just have an incredibly vivid proof of how intensely tied together national economies are in this globalized world of ours.  So, now, we find even emerging economies that haven’t invested in sub-prime mortgages are getting hammered.  And so, clearly, globalization is not a thing that one could talk about being for or against their wishing to have more or less of it.  It is just… it’s the air we breathe.  It’s the fact of our life.  And so, the question is how can this be used as a positive as opposed to as a negative and I think trade is a key example, because when we talk about needing to help impoverished countries, for example, you know, we should give them more aid and so forth.  And I think if we can use the aid wisely that’s right.  But, in general, those numbers are small compared to the kind of revenue that these countries can be receiving in a freer trade system.  And so, the failure of all the major trading nations of the world to arrive at some regime and what was called the [Doha round], some regime of global free trade which would have among other things produce tremendous benefits for impoverished countries hoping to penetrate the markets of more developed country that’s a disaster.  That’s really a disaster.  And it is fair to ask of Obama who has been, who is like any Democrat needs to court unions and others who are very skeptical about free trade.  It’s fair to ask of Obama whether he is really going to commit himself to the kind of global trading regime which will bring real benefits to impoverished nations especially if it means telling some American farmers we can’t keep giving you these subsidies anymore. 

Love it or hate it, globalization has become a fact of life. The key question is whether trade can be used to help impoverished countries.

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