Economist links economy, security

by Elise Dunphe | 11/4/02 6:00am

In the first event of the Dartmouth-Tuck Forum on the International Economy, renowned economic analyst Alan Wolff spoke Friday about international trade policies, calling for a re-evaluation of our trade policies in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Wolff is a widely-regarded expert in the field of international trade and economics, having served as Deputy United States Special Trade Representative during the Carter administration, for which he earned the title of ambassador, and on the State Department Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy.

"In times of peril, which this is, we need to be concerned with national security," he said, explaining that this concern should not completely restrict free trade, but that it would be a contributing factor when making trade-related decisions.

"We need intelligence. We need to know what is going on in the world around us," he said. "In this era of self-reliance, the strength and composition of the U.S. economy matters, and not just in a financial sense."

Wolff said that a country's economy is a sign of its influence and status in the international political scene, and foreign countries view nations with strong economies as being politically sound.

"Current policy is driven by trade," Wolff said. "You can't make economic decisions freely if you can't make free decisions politically."

Wolff said he believes that there is a two-way relationship between international economics and politics, and that both have changed in objective since the end of the Cold War, but that progress still needs to be made.

"The geopolitical rationale is changed for the times as well. We're no longer trying to halt communism -- the communists did that for themselves," he said.

The World Trade Organization has the ability to arbitrate binding disputes, some of the most common being those between the United States and the European Union, often over relatively unimportant issues, he added.

Wolff said, "The E.U. and the U.S. perhaps have the most in common in running trade and we have the least maturity in doing it."

The topic of dumping, which is the practice of a company selling surplus goods abroad for less than the domestic price, came up at several points during the speech. Wolff used the steel industry as an example, saying that almost every "respectable country" has one, but in most cases more steel is produced than is demanded domestically. This leads to many net exporters of steel, and the need to dump surpluses for lower profits.

"It makes sense to restrict steel to your own market," Wolff said. Currently there are international statutes on anti-dumping, which he is in favor of, but not in their current form.

Additionally, he advocated general movement toward free trade and increasing growth in developing countries through improvement in information technology fields, which have traditionally had low tariffs.