Free Trade = Good for Human Rights

Susan Aaronson, author of Trade Imbalance gave an opinion piece on NPR’s Marketplace yesterday afternoon.

Human rights groups may protest the Columbian free trade agreement, and point to Columbia’s shoddy record of human rights. Ok, yes, it’s shoddy. But should we wave a stick at it and hope it improves?

Aaronson points out that what many protesters fail to notice is that the agreement has built-in protections for human rights. This deal, in danger of failing, could be just what the critics should be rooting for.


“Dark Knight” Lasts 38 Hours Before Pirated

David K. Levine on keeping your monopoly just long enough to benefit from it — but not so long as to be, well, a monopoly. Further, Dark Knight did it without government intervention!

An interesting story in the LA Times about the movie “Dark Knight.” They went to great lengths to make sure that bootleg DVDs wouldn’t hit the streets for the first two days after the movie was released:



Warner created a “chain of custody” to track who had access to the film at any moment. It varied the shipping and delivery methods, staggering the delivery of film reels, so the entire movie wouldn’t arrive at multiplexes in one shipment, in order to reduce risk of an entire copy being lost or stolen. It conducted spot checks of hundreds of theaters domestically and abroad, to ensure that illegal camcording wasn’t taking place. It even handed out night-vision goggles to exhibitors in Australia, where the film opened two days before its U.S. launch, to scan the audience for the telltale infrared signal of a camcorder.

Warner Bros. executives said the extra vigilance paid off, helping to prevent camcorded copies of the reported $180-million film from reaching Internet file-sharing sites for about 38 hours. Although that doesn’t sound like much progress, it was enough time to keep bootleg DVDs off the streets as the film racked up a record-breaking $158.4 million on opening weekend. The movie has now taken in more than $300 million.

The success of an anti-piracy campaign is measured in the number of hours it buys before the digital dam breaks.

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Why Trade is Broken, and How to Fix It

Patterson and Afilalo were never that optimistic about Doha.

They are international law and trade experts at Rutgers, who feel that the WTO procedure is based on an economic situation (beginning at Bretton Woods) that just doesn’t exist anymore — big western powers and all those other economies.

How to fix things? Make a trade council based on economic incentives.

Dennis Patterson

While the collapse of the Doha talks will not spell disaster for World Trade, it will contribute to the growing voices of protectionism heard both in the United States and abroad. Given the failure to reach consensus, it seems natural to ask if the cause is specific to the issues under discussion or whether the problem lies deeper. The immediate cause of the failure of the talks appears to have been an intractable dispute over protection for farmers in developing countries. America insisted on minimal protection: India and China wanted a “special safeguard mechanism” that would allow developing nations to raise tariffs in the interest of protecting domestic agriculture.

One of the problems with the current global trading order is that it is limited by the negotiation structure of the WTO. Each side to a given debate advances a position and then an effort is made to move the participants to consensus with each side giving ground as they are cajoled by bureaucrats to cooperate in the service of an abstract ideal. It would be far better – and likely more successful – if the participants could motivate their interlocutors to reach consensus by offering concrete incentives.

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Human Rights, Trade, and the 2008 Presidential Elections

President Bush is not the only president, or even the first one, to favor trade expansion over human rights protection.

Susan Aaronson, expert in the intersection of trade and human rights, seeks to flesh out Bush’s views on how trade affects human rights, with a look at what this means for the current candidates.

See it here, published in the new edition of World Policy Journal.