I am taking a class on International Trade at UVic Law. The text that we use for the class is International Trade Law by Guzman and Pauwelyn. One question that the text asks in one of its discussion sections is:
In today's political context, does it still make sense to pursue "closed" or "export" politics in Geneva [at the WTO headquarters] so as to overcome "import" politics or protectionism at home? If trade liberalization is, indeed, in the overall interest of a country, can one not expect that modern parliaments will realize this? Should, as a result, parliaments and domestic politics be involved more (not less) to make the WTO effective and legitimate?
I thought I would post here to canvass your thoughts.
It seems that there is indeed a political problem where the gains from trade are diffuse and the costs concentrated, which makes trade politically problematic even if it is beneficial over the long term. We know that politics tends to reward thinking along short time scales, not long ones, and thus mechanisms such as the WTO can be an effective way of correcting for this problem. It seems to me that the WTO is legitimate insofar as it achieves its objective of increasing prosperity and that nation states can take or leave the agreements, but that if the parliaments of nation states start to pick and choose which trade agreement clauses they want - driven in no small part by lobbying from industries that want protection, most probably - then the utility of the WTO - being able to drive trade liberalization moreso than would occur in its absence - evaporates and one is stuck with the domestic political realm which is as liable to produce the likes of Smoot Hawley as anything else.
That said, there are a number of unexamined assumptions implicit in what I have said above that may be worthy of discussion.