Immigration Ramifications of Putin Blasting the WTO
June 15, 2007, 08:44 PM
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Alex Nicholson writes at Associated Press:
Speaking at an economic forum in Russia's second-largest city of St. Petersburg, Putin lamented that today's international economic organizations "look archaic, undemocratic and awkward" by protecting the interests mainly of developed economies.

"Today protectionism which the WTO is intended to fight oftentimes comes from developed economies that set up this structure," Putin told the conference.

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Putin also said that, currently, global financial markets evolved around "one or two" currencies — an apparent reference to the euro and the dollar ........ "There can be only one answer to this challenge — the creation of several world currencies, several financial centers," [Russia's Putin Calls for WTO Alternative, June 10, 2007]

The countries with WTO trade advantages tend to be heavy net recipients of immigration. Putin's Russia is a relatively low net-immigration country-and along with Japan and China, one of the larger lower net-immigration economies. WTO managed trade may be creating a situation in which the only practical hope for a better life the more ambitious individuals in many poor countries have is to emigrate to a more highly developed, counties with more favorable WTO trade terms.

I doubt Putin's claim WTO managed trade really a "benefit" to countries like the US. Hes not looking a the cost of immigration or the long term impact of trade empires as part of the equation. The "benefits" of WTO managed trade are often focused on specific elites that tend to manage trade and finance. Under protectionism, the makeup of US elites was different than it is today. You simply don't see folks like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison or George Westinghouse in prominent positions in the US any more. The old elites were also more likely to call for careful management of immigration than their successors.

Economists often teach that "free trade" maximizes the potential for development. Unfortunately, externalities-like the movement of diseases that accompany trade and migration, are given little attention-as are the negative distributional patterns that can accompany the combination of free trade and open borders. I suspect the losers in the broader move away from protectionism and the lower immigration rates we saw from 1910-1970 and towards Open Borders and WTO managed trade are the same.

We desperately need better economic analysis of this topic. Even without that analysis, I expect Putin's message will have significant populist appeal to the poorest of countries affected by the current world order. The rise of countries with less immigration may inspire management of US immigration.