Regulating Global Trade
In the past, the world looked to the United States to regulate world trade, and it was in a position to do so. Today it has lost its hegemonic position 1-- as have all other nations and trading blocs--so there is no clear leader to suggest a world trading system or to enforce it. The best candidate, undoubtably, is the WTO. But it is too large, and its membership still too diversified, for it to agree on a single system under which to coordinate world trade. The larger trading blocs are more cohesive and homogenous (the European Union [EU] being the most so), but none commands a majority of world traders and neither do they agree on a single trading model. 2 Moreover, one would not want one or another of these regional trading blocs to seize the upper hand and force its vision of trade on the world marketplace. That would undercut the one true global group--the WT03--and would not reach more than one-half of global trade. In the absence of consensus, multinational businesses are left on their own to set the pace and objectives of global trade, a kind of global "economic imperialism' that could marginalize other important government concerns, such as the environment, human and labor rights and culture. 4
Surely we don't want a trade world with no traffic cop, wherein the generators of wealth and well-being (capital, know-how and resources) move from venue to venue as opportunity arises with no concern for the consequences. That is not to suggest that a world market dominated by private players will dissolve in chaos. There are plenty of delimiting factors. But a world trade system without sufficient checks and balances is more prone to harmful consequences than one that is properly regulated. That is, an ideal system is neither totally free and capitalistic nor too heavily regulated, but a balance of the two.