Trade negotiations and high politics: Drawing the
right lessons from Seattle
Professor Odell has written a wonderful essay. It deploys state-of-the-art tools of social science, but also is admirably free of the vices associated with much social science, such as undue abstraction and policy irrelevance. This essay displays in a concrete policy context the importance of bargaining costs and structures, and strategic behavior generally, in shaping or determining substantive policy outcomes. Given the passions inflamed by Seattle and its supposed failure, we cannot but welcome a work like this, which–if I may steal from Lord Keynes a kudo that he devised for Churchill's history of the First World War– “pursues no vendettas, discloses no malice. ” 1 I have only a few disagreements, mostly at the level of detail, and perhaps a few larger points, which are more in the way of addition or supplementation to the rich canvas that Professor Odell has painted.
The public visage of Seattle, for much of the world, was indeed that presented in the opening paragraphs of Odell's paper. He perhaps does not adequately distance himself from the impression of chaos and generalized violence that was created by the selective use of TV cameras. In Seattle there were a number of well-organized protests, by constituencies with demands or criticisms of the WTO, and a few, essentially unrelated, incidents of opportunistic violence by thugs. The level of this violence was well below that displayed on a routine basis by hooligans at and in the wake of football matches in certain European cities. And the violence was not really connected to protests against the WTO. It has been suggested by some–not Odell, to his credit–that the critics of the WTO somehow morally disarmed themselves by participating in this disorder. In fact, their conduct was a model of civility. As for the Seattle police, they did not have a good plan in the first place for the coexistence of the negotiations with peaceful public protests (as Odell notes); then at the first sign of trouble, they panicked–gassing local residents going to the corner store for a quart of milk at the end of the evening.
Were all of the protesters anti-free trade and anti-globalization? Especially in the introductory part of his paper, Odell may not adequately distance himself from such a stereotype. Many of those protesting, and indeed the many other NGOs participating in the event, not as protestors but as lobbyists and networkers, seek to____________________