Former WTO chief Pascal Lamy’s advice for Malaysia

Pascal Lamy etc

BRAIN DRAIN, BRAIN GAIN

Former WTO chief Pascal Lamy’s advice for Malaysia

The former leader of the world's biggest trade organisation tells Luqman Hariz what he thinks of Malaysia. He also insists that the WTO is still relevant, despite growing anti-trade sentiment across the globe and failure to get countries to agree on trade agreements.

“The most underused resource on this planet is not oil, is not gas, is not coal, or water,” says Pascal Lamy, almost in a lamenting mode.

“It’s brains,” he said.

“A country like Malaysia, I know a bit about this country, I know the young people in this country are eager to get things done, they’re eager to progress, eager to learn.

“So my main recommendation is to invest in education, training, qualifications, this is where young people will make a living in the future,” he said it a recent interview with AWANI Review.

Pascal was in town to promote Expo France 2025, France’s candidature for the 2025 Universal Expo. 

I know the young people in this country are eager to get things done, they’re eager to progress, eager to learn. So my main recommendation is to invest in education, training, qualifications

“That’s one of my present jobs, which is to organize and promote France’s candidature.” he said.

This is his routine now; gallivanting the globe to represent his country since leaving his post as the Director-General of the World Trade organisation in 2013.

Maybe it’s a lighter routine for the 70-year old -- a stark difference from his previous job of leading the world’s biggest trade organisation and brokering trade agreements between its 164 member countries.

Pascal led the WTO from 2005 to 2013, and has been through it all. Before joining the WTO, he was the  European Commissioner for Trade for 5 years.

To some, his legacy in the WTO was soured by one thing – the infamous Doha Round.

Started in 2001, the Doha Round was the largest multilateral trade agreement to be negotiated. But after 14 years, in 2015, the talks failed.

Many took that as a sign of where the world is heading. While it also did little to quell criticism that the WTO is slowly becoming an irrelevant body.

“I would not agree that the Doha Round is dead. It’s still around. It’s a long-term negotiation with a very complex agenda.

“The WTO has moved in a more piecemeal way and there have been agreements in certain parts of the Doha Round,” he said.

He was then asked whether the WTO is still relevant, in an age whether anti-trade sentiments are high and countries are opting to close borders, or at the very least, opting to form bilateral trade agreements rather than multilateral ones.

“Whether the WTO works depends on whether trade is open or not. Trade is open, it keeps opening, so the WTO is doing its job.

“I recognise that the rule-making part is less dynamic than it should be and the WTO as a legislator is not efficient enough, but the WTO as an administrator, as enforcer, and as litigator is still a very efficient organisation,” he asserted.

The video above also highlights Pascal's thoughts about the anti-trade sentiment making waves across the globe, the Trump and Brexit phenomenon, his biggest regret during his tenure at the WTO and many more.

Podcast of the interview: 

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