The line of yours that drew some of the loudest applause during our FreedomFest 2019 debate on trade was your assertion of the WTO’s alleged “fecklessness” and ineffectiveness. As you know, on this matter (and others) I disagree with you – and for good reason: our mutual friend Dan Mitchell helpfully offers compelling evidence of the WTO’s effectiveness at keeping trade freer than it would otherwise be.
But another relevant point just occurs to me. If, as you say, the WTO is laughably ineffectual, why is the Trump administration actively blocking the appointment of judges to WTO dispute-resolution panels? Is the administration frightened that a fully staffed WTO will prove assertions of that agency’s “fecklessness” wrong?
While I don’t doubt that administration apologists are capable of dishing up superficially plausible explanations for its undermining of the WTO, the most deeply plausible explanation seems to me to be this: knowing that the WTO’s dispute-resolution record is in fact not ineffectual, the Trump administration is determined, by blocking appointments, to make it ineffectual, and then claim to have been correct all along in its sour assessment of the WTO.
How convenient for Mr. Trump and his fellow protectionists.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030