04/24/2006 09:39 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Mallaby on Globalization

Sebastian Mallaby has a column in the Washington Post today, which claims that "globalization" has stalled. From reading the column it is pretty clear that he is not referring to the actual increases in the flows of goods, services, information, ideas and culture across borders -- these are all way up, but not mentioned by Mallaby at all. To Sebastian, it isn't about the flows of trade and knowledge, it is about the strengthening of rigid centralized global institutions to manage these things. He is concerned that the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO are not growing and expanding their power fast enough -- as if this what is really important. He also is concerned that some countries are blocking big corporate mergers.

He blames these failures of "globalization" and trade liberalization on a variety of things, including "military and political" issues. By this, he mentions Iran "going nuclear," but not the US threat to nuke Iran. He mentions Paul Wolfowitz's failures to consult with his own staff before making speeches, but not the possibility that his role in Iraq war has made him damaged goods. In fact, Iraq is not mentioned at all as having anything to do with the breakdowns in multilateral negotiations.

Nor does he mention other areas of possibly useful globalization initiatives, where the US role is increasingly problematic. For example, the US is opposing efforts to modernization the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) with a new "Development Agenda," that relies more on economic analysis and more evidence based assessments of policies on intellectual property on innovation and development. The US is also the main opponent of a new global framework for supporting essential medical R&D, at the World Health Organization -- a debate the starts in late May at the World Health Assembly. The United States has opposed efforts by the World Health Organization to help poor countries evaluate the quality of generic drugs, because this will help generic suppliers compete against giant brand name companies like Pfizer.

One "globalization" debate that the Washington Post should cover more is the new "Broadcasting/Webcasting" treaty the United States is pushing at the World Intellectual Property Organization. The next big negotiation starts May 1 -- a week from today, in Geneva. The US wants a treaty that will create a new restriction on the right to rebroadcast, copy or distribute information that is disseminated on television, radio or the Internet, in order to "protect" the investments of companies that publish information. This controversial proposal is something that goes beyond copyright (and is opposed by most copyright groups), and will definitely be bad for the flow of knowledge globally. Here the driving force is Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft.