Mike Moore — Global Villain or Prophet?
What are some of Mike Moore’s suprising views on the organization he is leading?
November 8, 2001
Michael Moore is the first non-European to be Director General of the World Trade Organization. Yet, his beginnings were humble. Mr. Moore was born in Whakatane, New Zealand, in 1949. After early experience as a printer, meat worker, construction worker, social worker and trade union researcher, Mr. Moore became the youngest Member of Parliament ever elected in New Zealand in 1972 and was Prime Minister of New Zealand for eight weeks in 1990. Our new Read My Lips feature takes a look at the man — and what he has to say about running the WTO, promoting trade integration and coping with the global economy.
How much power does the WTO have?
“I wish we had some of the power our critics claim we have, that somehow we infringe the right of sovereign governments.”
What does the WTO actually do?
“All we do is facilitate those who want to make trade agreements, and then try to arbitrate when there are differences between countries who have signed an agreement.”
What about complaints that the WTO is an autocratic body?
“The WTO is probably more democratic than most international institutions. Every member is a member of our security council. Every one of them can delay anything — and frequently they do.”
How much influence do the United States have on the organization?
“I always find it ironic that everywhere I go in the world, so many people say the WTO is an instrument of U.S. commercial imperialism and capitalism and it’s dominated by the United States. People feel that everywhere — but in the United States.”
Does the WTO try to avoid transparency in its negotiating process?
“If you’ve got something to hide, the best way is to give out 5,000 sheets of paper and dare people to find it.”
How did your own political experience help you in running the WTO?
“I have often said that in politics, on the other side are your opponents on your own side are your enemies.”
What is the WTO’s main problem?
“We’re running an institution of over 130 members based on a 50-year old culture of 30 or so members.”
How courageous are political leaders today?
“Ministers are not coming to a ministerial conference at the WTO unless we are extremely close, not only to pre-cook, just microwave it for a few seconds.”
Are developing countries harmed by the global economy?
“Rather than globalization, they are experiencing marginalization.”
In what way would developing countries benefit from a globally integrated economy?
“[Regionalism] leads not towards an open world economy, but an unbalanced system of hubs and spokes, with rich countries at the center, holding all the cards — and developing countries at the periphery.”
Is globalization such a new thing?
“Globalization is a process, it’s an evolution. It’s been happening ever since the first person stood upright — and walked out of a cave.”
Are anti-globalization protests legitimate?
“It would strengthen the hands of those who seek change if some NGOs would distance themselves from masked stone-throwers who claim to want more transparency, anti-globalization dot.com types who trot out slogans that are trite, shallow and superficial.”
How would you defend the record of the World Bank?
“To blame the World Bank for civil war and for poverty is just about as contradictory as blaming the Red Cross for wars.”
Where do you see ideological difficulties for some of the protesters?
“The contradiction of the Left is that in church on Sunday we give generously to flood victims in Bangladesh. Then on Monday, we petition the government to stop the Bangladeshis selling their garments in our country.”
Do some of the developing countries’ politicians have a right to be angry about the protests?
“Imagine the attitude of South Africa’s Trade Minister Alec Erwin who was imprisoned during South Africa’s struggle for freedom when faced with the attitude on the streets of Seattle.”
How do the majority of WTO members view the protests?
“Nothing upsets our member states more than the mindless, undemocratic enemies of the open society who have as a stated aim the prevention of ministers and our leaders from even meeting.”