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We Don't Need Another Secretariat

January 19, 2005

Free-trade stalwart Jagdish Bhagwati graces the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal for January 17 with an informative discussion of the truths and untruths of current arguments about trade being aired in and about the World Trade Organization. Bhagwati has already forgotten more about trade than most of us will ever know, and much of what he has shared with his public has been refreshingly well reasoned and free of cant. So it is disappointing when, after a review of what the WTO and its members should and should not be doing, he bemoans the pittance on which the organization must eke out its existence ($100 million per year), and its lack of a "world-class secretariat."

The WTO reminds me of the Federal Paperwork Reduction Act, which engendered yet another flood of paperwork in the name of its reduction. We don't need more trade regulation, nor tariffs, nor quotas, nor embargoes, nor secretariats. There are already far too many secretariats, typically in national capitals, regulating international and domestic trade, and every self-respecting one of them already spends far more than $100 million a year. And that's just what they spend . . .

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