Friday, September 07, 2007

Thinking about Rules ...

Finally, to close out the week.

This Wednesday I was in New York and dropped by the presentation at the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs given by Tony Lang, senior lecturer in the School of International Relations at St Andrews. Fittingly for an institution located near where golf was created, he compared the formation and enforcement of international rules to that of golf--pointing out that golf has the largest playing field of any sport--meaning that rules have to cover all sorts of contingencies--and that golf has no umpire overseeing the game--similar to the international system where there is no one controlling public authority.

The self-interest of states in having a rules-based system is to create a level and predictable playing field, but, of course, there is no guarantee that having rules means that you can win (or that by following the rules you are automatically safer).

I bring this up because two other items crossed my desk in recent days. The first (which I also blogged about on Wednesday) is the question of having rules to keep us safe in terms of trade (and reports that Beijing was trying to exercise pressure to have its neighbors weaken their safety standards.) The other is the argument being put forward in support of rapid movement to implement the "Framework to Advance Transatlantic Economic Integration" on the grounds that if the U.S. and the EU can create convergence in all sorts of regulations, they will create, ipso facto, the global standard that other countries, especially China, will have to accept. But I wonder how much longer this will be true, if, given recent economic data, the EU-U.S. share of the global economy is now down to anywhere from 48 to 52 percent. (A related issue, covered in this week's Russia Profile Experts' Group, is whether the "surprise" nomination of Czech economist Tosovsky to contest the directorship of the IMF by Russia, China and other states represents the beginning of a shift in the global economic balance of influence).

How much is in U.S. interests, then, to begin to accept greater restraints on its freedom of action to in turn strengthen an international regulatory regime that could, over time, restrain other rising powers that in the future could diminish America's standing?

Twenty years ago the percentage of world trade between OECD states was 67 percent. The decline s not as alarming as you make it. The 17 percent drop (shift) is shared among Korea, China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Singapore and others. It is noteworthy but just that.
But there is an interesting question which is when does the OECD countries lose the ability to automatically set global standards? Five years? Ten? Twenty?
Anonymous 4:49 PM:

I cannot answer your question because I do not have the resources to investigate it. The answer must be gleaned from running computer simulations with current available data - envisioning different scenaria. It can be done and it will produce many Ph.D.s.

Can the Nixon Center fund it?
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