Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati on Globalization, International Trade, and Climate Change

Topic: Globalization, International Trade, and Climate Change

Institution: Columbia University, Council on Foreign Relations

Bio: Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor at Columbia University and Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a prominent economist. He has made pioneering contributions to the study of development, globalization, international trade, foreign aid and immigration. He also writes frequently for leading media worldwide. He has served in many advisory roles, including at the GATT as Economic Policy Adviser to Director General Arthur Dunkel and at the UN to Secretary General Kofi Annan on Globalization and on NEPAD Process in Africa. He works with many NGOs, including Human Rights Watch. Among his many successful books is In Defense of Globalization.

Episode Summary:

Professor Bhagwati talks about cultivating a more nuanced framework for thinking about Globalization and its pros and cons, in addition to issues of overlap between the economics of climate change and international trade. Professor Bhagwati and Jisung also talk about some implications for international climate mitigation frameworks, as well as issues surrounding intellectual property rights of low-carbon technologies developed using public funding.

Professor Bhagwati’s Top Three:

1. Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World, Back Bay Books, Little Brown & Co., New York, 2002.

The book describes how Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain: very relevant to our current situation of apparent “clash of civilisations” under growing globalization.

2. Richard McGregor, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Comunist Rulers, HarperCollins: New York, 2010

3. Padma Desai, From Financial Crisis to Global Recovery, Columbia University Press: New York, 2011.


Copyright Information:

Intro/Outtro Music: Bolling: Suite For Cello And Jazz Piano Trio – Baroque In Rhythm


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  • Eric A. Lukas

    Excellent discussion. I especially appreciated Professor Bhagwati’s proposal for an international system of financing technological developments in emissions-reduction and corporate clean-up efforts, modeled on the U.S. Superfund system. This was outlined in further depth in the 2007 edition of his In Defense of Globalization (which, like Jisung, I also highly recommend to listeners), where Professor Bhagwati outlined a reformed Kyoto system of tackling emissions that would combine this “International Superfund” with an emissions permit trading scheme. The idea was that a global emissions regime that encouraged participants to contribute to financing carbon-free technologies and pay for emissions would both distribute the costs fairly between developed and developing countries and add a veneer of acceptability to U.S. policymakers, since the system would be market-based and those companies implementing carbon-free technologies would reap the benefits.

    The obvious question provoked by this discussion, then, is how to get such a system implemented at the global level. While this climate mitigation framework would see low-carbon technology firms benefit, I wonder how Professor Bhagwati would address the broader question of restructuring incentives that would warm large carbon-emitting firms up to adopting these technologies. An effective carbon-pricing policy would help bring the latter about, but given the unfavorable politics of such a policy in the developed world, perhaps more gradual partnerships between governments and carbon-emitting firms would be better suited to incentive-restructuring. Definitely a question to tackle in a future podcast!

  • Sbkleinman

    Professor Bhagwati thoughtfully articulates some key dilemmas in terms of managing the economics with the politics of global emissions-reduction efforts. As Eric (below) rightly notes, a key question remains about how to effectively restructure incentives to bring firms on board with his plan. But as he says to the critics, “Everything’s a non-starter until it starts,” and “politics changes over time.” Maybe Jisung and S&S can get Al Gore on the show next to discuss these issues–it sounds like Professor Bhagwati is ready and waiting!

  • Thomas Mckenzie

    Both Eric and Sbkleinman ask questions I asked myself while listening to Prof. Bhagwati. There are sensible and sound policy solutions out there for problems like emissions-reduction, but it has always seemed to me that the harder questions have typically been around aligning political incentives, not economic ones.

    Is there some kind of intervention, something beyond a sudden environmental catastrophe, that can shift political incentives in a direction that benefits emission-reduction efforts? It is trendy to raise this point, but are there lessons to be learned from OWS, who seem to have successfully shifted the political discussion, even if it has changed in a limited way?

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