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The World Trade Organization: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 8 Sep 2005
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'Narlikar's engagement with public debates is exemplary - a task too rarely attempted by critical scholars in this area. This book is a timely rejoinder to the fledgling study of global governance. An exceptional introduction to the WTO, it also succeeds in doing much more than is says on the tin.' (Craig Berry, Political Studies Review)
'The author obviously knows her subject...she succeeds well in giving an account of the organization that is both accessible and engaging... If this is the first thing that a student reads on the WTO, then he or she will be well launched into their enquiry.' (Professor Tony Payne, Department of Politics, University of Sheffield.)
About the Author
Amrita Narlikar is University Lecturer in International Relations at the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge. She held a lectureship at the University of Exeter (2003-04) and a Junior Research Fellowship at St John's College, Oxford (1999-2003). Her research interests lie in the areas of trade negotiations, developing countries and international economic organizations.
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Here are a few representative examples; see if you can grasp them: Grand Bargain, Blue box, The Havana Charter, phytosanitary barriers to trade, non-governmental organizations, customs valuation code, welfare losses, democratic deficit, Multi Fibre Agreement, the emerging safeguards provision, the Most Favored Nation (MFN) rule, the dual-track mechanism, and Mode 4. How'd you do? And here is a typical sentence: "The agreement disallows measures against foreign investors and foreign products that are inconsistent with the GATT's national treatment obligation and the ban on Quantitative Restrictions." Got it? And, finally, you might have to read the paragraph on pages 5-6 nine or ten times before you begin to grasp its full meaning and can move on.
If you get the impression that I didn't understand everything I read in this book --- you're right. I now understand the World Trade Organization in its broadest sense, fear its intrusion into domestic affairs and its threat to national sovereignty, and now understand why there have been serious protests and demonstrations at the various WTO `Rounds,' but that's about it. I can also say, however, that, based on this read, I seriously doubt that more than one in a hundred of the 6,000 or so workers at the WTO have a complete and thorough understanding of the WTO as described herein. So, I don't feel quite so bad.
Bottom line: If you're like me, one of the uninitiated masses, you'll likely get a top-level understanding of the WTO by reading this book, but that's about all. So, unless you have been hired by the WTO or are intent on studying it for some other purpose, I can't recommend that you read it.
The author goes out of her way to present the experiences and point of view of developing countries (DCs) on most issues. Since the vast majority of the WTO's signatories are DCs, and since most of the institutions of the WTO and GATT were under the control of the US and European nations, this is not so unreasonable or unbalanced. (Note that DC signatories aren't "opponents" of WTO or of globalization; they just want the organization to be fairer than it is currently.) Moreover, she makes it clear that the DCs aren't all angels, either. For example, WTO signatories are required to submit schedules of "bound" tariff rates -- i.e., they promise not to charge higher than the "bound" rate for the respective category of goods on the schedule. This goes to the heart of a main reason for creating WTO: DCs hadn't had to bind their tariffs under GATT. They were induced to do so under WTO by promises that WTO would address certain of their concerns on agriculture, textiles and other matters. However, the author points out even though some DCs were disgruntled that these promises were unkept, they were also gaming the system: most DCs "bound" their rates at much higher than what they were charging in practice. They thereby effectively assured themselves the right to charge significantly *higher* tariffs in the future -- which kinda wasn't what WTO was supposed to be about.
That the author can make such intricate details vivid and engaging is quite unusual for books about WTO (other than anti-globalization rants). And despite having less than 140 pages of text, the book will provide you with enough detail to allow you to penetrate some of the more scholarly tomes about WTO without falling asleep instantly, should you feel up to that challenge. Considering that the prices of such books are often $50-$100 or even much more, this book is a tremendous value.