Panel of experts discusses world trade, GATT

by Tim Fitzgibbons | 5/12/94 5:00am

Three experts on global trade faced off yesterday afternoon to debate the future of trade barriers and human-rights issues in world commerce.

About 150 people gathered in Cook Auditorium to hear representatives from Japan, the European Union and the United States discuss their nation's roles in the future of world trade.

Each of the participants gave a short address detailing his views about the evolution of world trade and the results of the latest round of negotiations under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, a multinational agreement designed to reduce trade barriers.

The agreement resulting from the latest round of GATT negotiations, which was signed by more than 100 countries on April 15 after seven years of wrangling, will create a World Trade Organization intended to increase the ease of liberalizing global commerce.

The three panelists agreed that although the treaty did not meet its original expectations it was still successful because it significantly reduced trade barriers and addressed areas not covered under previous agreements.

The GATT is "one of the most important developments in world trade in the postwar period," said Andreas van Agt, the European Union's ambassador to America and former prime minister of the Netherlands.

But all three stressed the need to continue the liberalization of trade.

Masahisa Naitoh, a former director-general in Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, defended his nation's trade surplus with the United States and Europe.

Although noting that America runs a massive trade deficit with Japan, Naitoh said per capita consumption of American goods by the Japanese is higher than per capita consumption of Japanese goods by Americans.

"Perception does not always fit reality," he said.

But American businesses have difficulty penetrating Japanese markets, said Joseph Massey, a professor at the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration who was recently appointed head of Tuck's new Whittemore Center for International Business.

The experts also discussed the role of human rights in trade issues. Both Naitoh and van Agt said they felt the United States should not use trade barriers to penalize China for its human-rights violations for fear that other countries would simply fill the void left by the United States.

"If the U.S. were to deny further extension of Most Favored Nation status to China many others would take advantage of that," said van Agt.

"If China becomes much more affluent human rights issues will be solved systematically," Naitoh said. "If we kill economic development, problems will continue."

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