“A cavalier interest in developing countries” – Jagdish Bhagwati

One of the best pieces yet on Zoellick’s time at CSIS and as US trade representative.  Bizarrely, liberal economist Jagdish Bhagwati has accused Zoellick of pushing free trade at the expense of development: “He was using bilateral deals with Chile and Singapore to try to ram through restrictions on the use of capital controls,” Bhagwati says. “I can’t think of a single developmental economist who would say this is a good idea, and it suggests a cavalier interest in developing countries.”

2 thoughts on ““A cavalier interest in developing countries” – Jagdish Bhagwati

  1. Zoellick also demurred when asked whether he felt it was right that the World Bank has, by tradition, always been led by an American, saying he was ready to defend the bank’s agenda.

    “I certainly understand the difference between someone in a national capacity and someone in an international capacity,” he said. “I recognize it’s a different role.”

    Epiphany a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b : a revealing scene or moment

    “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
    But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
    Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saullick, he said, “Brother Saullick, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saullick’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

  2. For all the negative talk about Zoellick about pushing free trade “at the expense of development” by no less prominent a economist than Jagdish Bhagwati, there is just one minor factual problem.

    The fact that China lifted a sizable portion of its population out of poverty from Deng Xiao Ping’s era is not in dispute.

    The fact that one major contributing factor is liberalization of the economy is not in dispute.

    The fact that expanding foreign trade, access to markets such as the US and OECD nations, played a critical role in ‘export led growth’ is also not in dispute.

    The fact that Mr. Zoellick was one of the key players in the multilateral efforts to bring China into the GATT and its successor organization the WTO is not in dispute.

    Then surely, it should not be in dispute that Mr Zoellick played a key role in the lifting of China and hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty by expanding trade.

    Is it a co-incidence that developmental economists like the esteemed Mr Jagdish Bhagwati has very little to say about why successive Asian economies like the Republic of Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei, etc. have been rather successful without following their formula?

    Ask any Chinese policy maker who matter and most of them will confirm that trade and access to markets played a key role in development.

    Many of the more worldly ones applaud Mr Zoellick’s key role in seeing through China’s accession to the WTO. While he cannot take full credit (nor can any single person) for such a grand enterprise, Mr Zoellick’s efforts are certainly critical and he was a key player in the process of the emergence of China into the global trading regime.

    Measured in terms of the millions of Chinese (and others) Mr Zoellick’s work has lifted probably more people out of poverty than many other WBP candidates, past and present.

    The tragedy is that many developmental economists would rather write vitriolic dismissals of Mr Zoellick than to look at his achievements in an open minded, fair fashion.

    Bringing China into the WTO and the global trading regime is perhaps more important to world development than any other single event in the 20th century.

    Mr Zoellick is justifiably proud of his role in that process.

    Many Chinese would also agree.

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