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Zoellick gets touchy-feely

October 1, 2010

I can remember World Bank President Robert Zoellick when he was US Trade Representative. At his final press conference at the World Trade Organiation Ministerial in Cancun he happily told the world that America wasn’t going to concede anything more in negotiations —  effectively scotching any chance of a deal. So US cotton subsidies would remain in place, ensuring that cotton farmers in Benin would stay hungry.  Europe could get away with subsidising its overpaid farmers for another couple of years. There’d be no further tariff cuts for developing countries.

When I worked in the Vanuatu trade department it was his office that continued to insist that if this tiny country with a population of of a quarter of a million, where average incomes were a few hundred dollars a year, would be forced to submit to a more liberal trade policy than the likes of Australia if it wanted to join the WTO.

Now, apparently, he’s gone all touchy-feely, arguing that economics should be ‘democratised’. The Washington Consensus is dead. Blueprints no longer apply.

This is despite his own blanket mercantilism as head US trade honcho, and despite the World Bank being the prime architect of one-size-fits-all development policy for the last couple of decades.

Let’s see what happens. Sounds like pure public relations talk to me.

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