The Pareto efficiency: towards a new world-trade order.

Position:Fair Trade for All: How Trade Can Promote Development by Joseph E Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton - Book review
 
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Fair Trade for All

How trade can promote development

By Joseph E Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton

[pounds sterling]15.99 Oxford University Press

ISBN 0-19-929090-3

In a brief forward to this new study of the WTO and the ongoing campaign to improve the world's trading regime, co-author Joseph E Stiglitz describes how, as chief economist at the World Bank, he was greatly worried about the imbalances of the Uruguay development round. In particular, he was concerned at its failure in delivering the promises made to the developing world.

If there is such a thing as a contemporary economist who is a household name, it is surely Stiglitz. Both his previous books 'Globalisation and its Discontents' and 'The Roaring Nineties' have, remarkably for serious economic studies, made the bestseller lists around the world. It was partly the fascination of reading the thoughts of a former senior figure at the World Bank taking on the almost criminal shortcomings of the International Monetary Fund, and partly the acerbic, witty and forthright way that he made his arguments, that caught the public's imagination.

Whether this book will capture the same acclaim is debatable. Depending on your viewpoint, he has either lost some of his fire-in-the-belly rhetoric or he has mellowed with the years. Or could it be that with co-author Andrew Charlton alongside, Stiglitz has tempered his prose style a little? That said, there is still plenty of exquisitely sharp commentary to reassure the reader that he has yet to lose his critical faculties.

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There is another good reason why this book should appeal to anyone with an interest in, but perhaps not a specialised knowledge of, the arcane ways of the WTO and its trade rounds and negotiations. Even among those campaigning for WTO trade reforms, how many really know the difference between a 'green box' and a 'green room'? Or, for that matter, what the 'Pareto efficiency' might be?

Seattle watershed

Just before the WTO's Seattle meeting in 1999, in an address to the WTO in Geneva, Stiglitz had predicted that unless redressing trade imbalances was at the top of the agenda, the developing countries would reject another round of trade negotiations.

In fact, as Stiglitz suggests, Seattle was a watershed. He describes the street riots and demonstrations, which this WTO meeting is remembered for, as just a public manifestation of a fundamental shift in the debate about trade and trade liberalisation--and of a...

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