Assessing Peter Sutherland’s legacy


Sir, – By the time Peter Sutherland was appointed secretary general of the Gatt (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) in July 1993, negotiations for the establishment of the World Trade Organisation had been staggering along for over 40 years.

A year after his appointment, the Uruguay round of the Gatt culminated with the establishment of the World Trade Organisation with its own secretariat and also an agreement on internationally traded services. Mr Sutherland reportedly cajoled and occasionally browbeat reluctant negotiators in order to bring matters to a conclusion.

US negotiator Mickey Cantor acknowledged at the time that, without Mr Sutherland’s firm handling, agreement would not have been reached.

It was a major achievement from which Ireland’s trade has benefitted greatly. It may also turn out to be the WTO regime under which our trade with the UK is conducted after Brexit. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – One of the arguments of the late Peter Sutherland for mass migration to Europe was as a remedy for an ageing population.

For a man with banking experience, this was an extraordinarily innumerate position.

Immigrants also age, so the “required” flow is exponential and unattainable.

The late Mr Sutherland’s views on immigration (read his tweets) were those of a dangerous extremist, driven by a hatred of the nation-state and state sovereignty. – Yours, etc,



Control Platform,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – It is perfectly acceptable for Brian Hayes MEP (January 10th) to disagree forcefully with your columnist Fintan O’Toole’s article on Peter Sutherland’s legacy (Opinion & Analysis, Janaury 9th).

However, it is quite another for Mr Hayes, as an elected official, seemingly to label Fintan O’Toole’s article as “the height of fake news”. There should be no room in European democracy for public officials labelling journalists they disagree with as engaging in “fake news”. It is a disappointing and troubling development, and I hope Mr Hayes will refrain from such language in the future.

Press freedom is a precious thing, and Europe does not need a climate where attacks on the press are commonplace. – Yours, etc,



The Netherlands.

Sir, – It may surprise you to know that the late Peter Sutherland was reluctant to live in Dublin because of the continuous sniping at him by Fintan O’Toole and others. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 2.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole has it backwards when he claims that Peter Sutherland’s work led to Brexit and Donald Trump.

Mr Sutherland was appropriately described by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the architects of the modern rules-based trading system”. The key point here is that a charlatan like Mr Trump cannot easily abrogate the world’s trading system to the US’s advantage no matter how much he huffs and puffs about it.

Similarly, the UK cannot simply cherry-pick aspects of the EU single market without subscribing to the basic European principles that have delivered benefits to the average citizen.

Indeed, the UK’s “cakeism” strategy is blatantly unfeasible as World Trade Organisation rules mean that the UK cannot simply leave the European customs union while putting the onus wholly on Ireland to impose a northern Border – as suggested by some of the more hare brained Brexiteers – since this would breach the WTO’s most-favoured nation rules.

Indeed, the less skilled and poorly educated have been let down by their leaders and education systems and suffered – in contrast, the skilled workers of exporting countries such as Germany, China and even Ireland have benefited greatly from global trade.

While the woes of a former coal miner in Appalachia or an ex-steelworker in Sunderland may be blamed on free trade and so called “globalists”, the reality is that technology and environmental considerations not low-trade barriers have made certain industries redundant.

The US Democratic party and European socialist parties are free to make the case for redistributive policies but forcing western consumers to forego the benefits of cheap goods and modern technology is not a panacea. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.