In his Nov. 24 Ideas piece (“They called us ‘flat earthers'—but we were right”), Chas Walker celebrates his role in disrupting the 1999 World Trade Organization Ministerial in Seattle. I also was in Seattle then, but as a member of the US negotiating team. What Walker and his colleagues failed to recognize was that the WTO is precisely the institution that has changed the global trading system in the direction that he professes to support. By negotiating rules of the road governing trade among 164 countries, the WTO has enabled hundreds of millions of people in Third World countries, especially in Asia, to rise out of poverty by benefiting from a fairer trading system. WTO agreements require consensus among all of the members. Any member, no matter its size, has the right to prevent a negotiation from concluding if it feels the agreement would harm its interests. Instead of disrupting the work of the WTO, Walker should actively support it.
The writer is former US ambassador to the WTO.