The World Trade Organization is to have its first leader from the BRICS group of nations in Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, following his election to the post.
As a symbol of so-called emerging economies’ ascent in global affairs, the choice of Azevedo is not without significance. With Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa growing strongly in the face of anemic economic growth in much of the developed world, it is increasingly clear that the world order can no longer be directed by long-dominant First World powers alone.
Roberto Azevedo. (Yonhap News)
More important than Azevedo’s nationality, though, is his success in restarting the WTO’s stalled Doha round of talks to liberalize international trade. Dismantling trade barriers across the globe is a must for greater prosperity in both the rich and poor world.
In the uncertain science that is economics, few tenets enjoy the consensus that exists around the benefits of free trade. Yet, developed and developing countries alike continue to drag their heels on scrapping tariffs and import quotas, mindful of special interests across various industries at home.
Azevedo must break this impasse. So, too, must he convincingly make the case that trade liberalization for individual countries cannot mean protecting the domestic industry while seeking to open up sectors of the economy abroad.
It is politically lucrative, and therefore understandable, for politicians to try to protect local industries that are unable to compete in the global marketplace. But capitalism always has winners and losers. It just so happens that, in the case of free trade, the former greatly outnumber the latter.
By John Power (firstname.lastname@example.org