Tuesday, May 16, 2006

widening the circle of elites who make trade policy

In the 19th and 20th centuries, trade policy was the turf of a select few policymakers, business, agricultural and labor leaders, and academics. But in recent years, policymakers in many countries have wideneed the circle of elites making trade policy. We examined trade policymaking in the US, EU, South Africa, and Brazil. We found that although more people have a chance to be heard, policymakers in the world's most influential trading nations are not always listening. New ideas and new voices are often crowded out by vested commercial and economic interests.
The attached charts describe how and by whom trade policy is made in these four trade powerhouses. The charts, designed for our new book, also illuminate some of the decision points where citizens can bring human rights into the debate over trade policy. For example, the US and the Eu have created dedicated (but not interactive) web sites to solicit public opinion about specific trade porposals or ongoing negotiations. However, we could not ascertain if and how they use these comments. Brazil and South Africa (like Canada, Mexico and other countries) have created citizen advisory committees comprised of representatives of civil society as well as business, labor and agriculture. These reforms should over time allow new issues, ideas and strategies to influence future trade policies.

This research will be published in "Righting Trade: Public Policies at the Intersection of Trade and Human Rights" forthcoming Cambridge University Press. pl. contact us at saaronson@kenan.org with questions and suggestions.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

trade and human rights blog 2

In today's Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/20/AR2005062001177.html
EJ Dionne writes about Vice President Cheney's hypocracy regarding human rights. He notes that Cheney criticized President Putin of Russia but buddied upt to President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazahstan, who is equally undemocratic and repressive. Dionne notes that he recognizes that "foreign relations is a complicated business and the United States often has to work with unsavory regimes."

But Undersecretary Zoellick has posited a new paradigm for prodding such "unsavory regimes." Zoellick will testify tommorow at House International relations on how to encourage China to be a "responsible stakeholder in the global community." We'll be back to you tommorow about how this new paradigm might be applied to other nations such as Russia.

US policymakers need to remember that they can use the incentive of WTO membership to encourage Russia to move in a more positive direction.

Till then....

Monday, May 08, 2006

trade and human rights blog

This week Vice President Dick Cheney warned that Russia was moving away from democracy towards autocracy. Yet the Bush Administration has seemed reluctant to use trade policy as a tool to encourage the Russians to maintain basic rights at home (such as freedom of speech and assembly, the right to information) and democratic rights abroad in former Soviet Countries. In the weeks to come, Congress is reviewing whether or not to grant Russia most favored nation status (now known as NTR). Russia needs NTR to accede to the WTO, and Russia really wants to join the WTO. If the Bush Administration acts creatively, it can find ways to work with Congress to obtain human rights action as a condition of NTR. While that has not been done in the past with NTR, why not think differently if human rights and democratization in Russia are an important US policy goal.

I welcome your comments.
Susan Ariel Aaronson, Ph.D.
Pl. visit our website, www.humanrights-trade.org for more information on how policymakers can promote human rights at they work to expand trade