Lamy sees WTO “at heart of global governance”

Those of us concerned about national sovereignty and global governance — no, not the black helicopter style — should check out a recent speech by World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy.

Ostensibly discussing how to get the WTO’s Doha Development Round up and running, Lamy also put in a strong pitch on the need for global governance in the global world.

Globalization is at the same time a reality and an on-going process that cannot be met by nation-states alone. We therefore need to contemplate new forms of governance at the global level to ensure that our growing interdependence evolves in a sustainable manner.

How can the interdependence of our world be better managed? In my view, four elements should guide us.

First of all, values. Values allow our feeling of belonging to a world community, embryonic as it may be, to coexist alongside national specificities. We must identify common values alongside common interests. And I think Norway is a good example of this pacific coexistence. Second, we need actors who have sufficient legitimacy to get public opinion interested in the debate, who are capable of taking responsibility for its outcome and who can be held accountable. Third, we need forums for transparent discussions and negotiations. Fourth, we need monitoring, surveillance and enforcement of States’ actions performed in a legitimate manner.

I am not proposing an institutional revolution but, rather, a combination of global ambition with pragmatic suggestions. Building global governance is a gradual process, involving changes to long-standing practices, entrenched interests, cultural habits and social norms and values.

Lamy then used the World Trade Organization as a “small” example of global governance. As a strong supporter of open and multilateral trade, I found some of his thoughts somewhat ominous. Note particularly the last sentence of the following quotation (boldface added by me).

The example of international trade sheds light on both the opportunities and the difficulties of this global governance. Although international trade is not the only one, it is a very visible dimension of globalization; the WTO, as trade regulator, is definitely at the heart of global governance.

The WTO is a small governance system where we already have a few elements in place: we have a multilateral system that recognizes different values, including a consensus on the benefits resulting from market opening while respecting sustainable development. We also have other values such as the need to respect religious diversity or the right to protect the environment; In WTO it is now clearly recognized that in some circumstances non-trade values can supersede trade considerations.

CEI has long recognized that certain international treaties preempt national laws and regulations and provide for international “courts” with wide-ranging jurisdiction. On CEI’s website there is an extensive collection of articles and papers on national sovereignty and global governance in other contexts.

One recent CEI paper by Jeremy Rabkin (June 1, 2006) looked at the Law of the Sea Treaty in relation to national sovereignty. Rabkin noted:

The United States has a stake in working with other nations to protect the global environment. For that purpose, it has entered into a number of conventions and agreements, such as, for example, conservation agreements to preserve fish stocks in international waters. But it is one thing to agree to a common standard and another thing to be bound by the decisions of an ongoing regulatory council in which the United States can be easily outvoted. It is one thing to agree to submit particular disputes to international arbitration, with the consent of both parties. It is entirely another thing to establish an ongoing court, with mandatory jurisdiction over important matters and an open-ended claim to “advise” on the law apart from particular disputes. It is something else again to embrace a court that, being permanent, may be prey to all the temptations of judicial activism, to extending its authority by enlarging its jurisdiction and winning popularity by playing favorites in its judgments.

Black sails on the horizon!