September 28, 2004

Less Regionalism, Please

There are a lot of things to be said about the IMF and World Bank, but BusinessWeek offers what should be a non-controversial suggestion: Give the major Asian nations better representation. BW argues, among other things, that Asian representatives could offer the sort of local knowledge that might ease or prevent some of the more painful international development blunders. I don't think "local knowledge" gets at some of the bigger structural problems with these institutions, but it could probably help.

The bigger concern, I think, is preventing Asian countries from starting their own regional monetary fund, which could eventually dovetail nicely with an emerging regional trading bloc, and so on. Organizations like the UN and the IMF are supposed to bind nations under a common interest—if not forestalling than at least mitigating the sort of power rivalries found before, say, World War I. If I had to make one overriding criticism of regional trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, it would be that they are fostering a dangerous competition with Asian nations, who are already scrambling to create their own regional free trade blocs. The best way to counteract this trend is to strengthen truly multilateral institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, G-8, the UN, etc. etc.
-- Brad Plumer 3:51 PM || ||