U.S. needs to learn how to play fair in trade talks

The game of Risk has it all: my very own impenetrable army of loyal followers, a map featuring great nations like Irkutsk, and most importantly, the chance to become Supreme Dictator of the World. Honestly, I can’t see why I haven’t tried world domination for real. Then I remember my impenetrable army is made out of plastic units. Perhaps it is for the best because I’ve found that when commanding my army of plastic units, I am more likely to make otherwise suicidal decisions, such as attacking others even if it actually hurts me worse. Oddly, when it comes to regulating the global marketplace, the same sort of strategy is being applied to actual people as well as plastic units.

Judging by the events of the past conference of the World Trade Oraganization in Cancun, there isn’t much of a distinction. In theory, free trade is a good thing because it should provide growth all around as everyone involved has more markets in which to sell their goods. The problem is that almost all the countries involved in the WTO want to tweak the theory to make it only go one way, so that they receive all the benefits without the risks. To a degree, I can understand why poorer countries feel the need to approach free trade cautiously, but I cannot understand why the E.U. and U.S. are so insistent on, for example, spending billions to subsidize industries that aren’t able to meet market prices. Neither wants to get rid of their subsidies first because then one has a huge advantage over the other. Moreover, in the U.S., both Democrats and Republicans have their own interests in keeping subsidies. So each administration promises to make them more efficient, but you know how that goes. In the meantime, trade doesn’t get any freer or fairer.

While hoping that the many countries of the WTO will suddenly agree is a bit naOve, I fear that the US will continue to apply its strategy across the board. As talks concerning the Free Trade Area of the Americas loom, I can only hope the U.S. will make every attempt to play fair.

Elaine Ayo can be contacted at eayo@umsis.miami.edu.