Sutherland to jointly lead global trade group


THE FORMER head of the World Trade Organisation, Peter Sutherland, is to jointly head an international group to boost global trade, set up as a result of growing concerns shared by the United Kingdom and Germany that protectionism is on the rise.

The creation of the high-level group reflects mounting international concern that global trade could be damaged because of currency wars and a rise in protectionism, fuelled by job losses in the major industrial nations.

The formation of the group headed by Mr Sutherland and Prof Jagdish Bhagwati was agreed during weekend talks in Chequers between British prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The group has been asked by the UK and Germany, along with Indonesia and Turkey, to provide recommendations by early next year that will support trade liberalisation and the growth in global trade.

Announcing the launch of the group, Mr Cameron and Ms Merkel said: “Trade is the engine of global growth. That is why we have put boosting trade and tackling trade barriers high on our governments’ agendas and want to see a strong political commitment to liberalising trade at the Seoul G20 summit.

“The work of this eminent group of experts, including Jagdish Bhagwati and Peter Sutherland, will provide an important contribution to increasing trade and driving the global economic recovery,” the two said after their Chequers talks.

Open markets and free trade “should be at the heart of the global recovery”, the two leaders agreed.

The Sutherland group will be asked for specific short- and medium-term ideas to tackle tariff, regulatory, administrative and physical barriers to trade, they added.

It will also be asked to provide “an analysis of the global welfare potential at stake in the various options for the conclusion of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organisation talks”.

Mr Sutherland is one of the world’s leading experts on global trade, having been director general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade from 1993 to 1995, and later head of the World Trade Organisation.

Last night, No 10 Downing Street said Mr Sutherland has been credited as being an essential contributor to the conclusion of the Uruguay trade talks and the creation of the World Trade Organisation.

He was attorney general to Fine Gael leader Dr Garret Fitzgerald during two administrations in the 1980s, before becoming European Commissioner for Competition between 1985 and 1989.

Saying that he was “honoured” to have been asked to play such a role, Mr Sutherland said “the global economy clearly needs a boost, and trade liberalisation has to play a very important part in this”.

A successful completion of the Doha Round talks, which have encountered many obstacles, particularly over agriculture, would “as has happened in the past be very important in stimulating growth”, Mr Sutherland told The Irish Times.

In Dublin last week, Mr Sutherland said the world faced a stronger danger of protectionism than at any time in the last two decades, which could undo the gains made by emerging economies in recent years.

Prof Bhagwati is regarded as the intellectual father of the reforms that have altered the Indian economy since 1991, when trade and regulatory barriers faced by international companies were reduced.

A leading advocate of free trade, he served as an adviser to former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, and later to the WTO. He is professor of economics and law at Columbia University, New York City.