Tom Keene Talks to Robert Z. Lawrence

Tom talks with Harvard Kennedy School professor Robert Z. Lawrence on trade and the need for new progress in WTO talks

How critical is it to jump-start World Trade Organization talks to break down trade barriers further?
It is very important. We’ve got an upcoming WTO ministerial meeting, and yet again all the representatives are going to meet and they are not going to do anything. But we have big concerns, particularly with respect to China.

Secretary of State Clinton has spoken about fair trade. How do you develop a policy for a new century if you are trying to be fair?
I think fairness has to be part of the story, but what is fair is defined by the rules. So we need to be active in trade agreements so we can get new rules, and we need to enforce the rules once they have been agreed upon.

Are we enforcing the rules?
We’ve brought seven cases in the last three years to the WTO. So I think we have been quite lethargic.

I think until recently the Administration has been tied up with a lot of domestic concerns. And I think, quite frankly, that the President hasn’t wanted to spend political capital on trade, which is pretty unpopular, particularly among Democrats. I think that is very unfortunate because basically as Americans save more, as our government tries to reduce the budget deficit, we need someone to buy our goods. One way to do that is to lower trade barriers to generate exports.

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