THE 2007 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE HAS
been awarded to Al Gore and the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change. Although some
were surprised that the peace prize could
be given to highlight the importance of global
warming, the Norwegian Nobel Committee
has awarded it to champions of causes
not directly linked to peace in the past. The
prize went to Norman Borlaug, father of
the green revolution, in 1970, to Mother
Teresa in 1979, and to Wangari Maathai, a
Kenyan environmentalist, in 2004.
The Nobel Peace Prize no longer focuses
on what Alfred Nobel wrotein his will, “the abolition
or reduction of standing armies and
the holding of peace congresses.” Instead, as
the committee chairman since 2003, Ole Danbolt
Mjos, put it, “The prize is about how we
live together, share resources.”
Given this updating, the best nominee
in 2008 would be the organization that has
probably done more to raise millions of
people from poverty and promote international
cooperation than any other organization
during the past 60 years, an organization
that is central to how the world
shares resources and whose success will
promote the “fraternity among nations”
that Nobel wanted. The nominee is the
World Trade Organization.
There are precedents for giving the Nobel
Peace Prize to economic organizations.
The International Labor Organization won
in 1969, and Grameen Bank, which developed
microcredit as a way of helping individuals
in developing countries to raise
themselves out of poverty, won the award
in 2006. With globalization shaping the
world in the 21st century, awarding the
prize to the WTO would recognize the
important role economic integration plays
in promoting world peace.
The negotiators at Bretton Woods, N.H.,
promoted postwar international economic
cooperation through the establishment of
the International Monetary Fund, the
World Bank and the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade, predecessor of the World
Trade Organization. They sought to avoid
the protectionism of the 1930s, which contributed
to the worldwide economic depression
and helped bring on World War II.
Although GATT and the WTO haven’t established
free trade, they created a process
to reduce tariffs and promote nondiscrimination,
reciprocity and transparency in trade.
The resulting reductions in tariffs and trade
barriers have transformed the world.
International trade has raised millions
out of poverty. GATT helped Europe to recover
from World War II. Trade helped Japan
to grow rapidly. The economic success of
Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong
showed China the benefits of free trade.
The USSR, China and India were
shackled by their inward-looking policies
in the 20th century. In the 21st century,
they all are pursuing economic growth
through international trade.
International trade overcomes political
differences. The WTO is one of the few international
organizations that includes both
China and Taiwan.
In keeping with the original object of
the peace prize, international trade makes
international conflict less likely. Today, European
economies are so integrated that a general
European war is unthinkable. As economies
become more integrated, and the standard
of living rises, the cost of war and the
benefits of avoiding war increase.
The World Trade Organization’s rules require
countries, including the U.S., to do
things favoring trade that are unpalatable domestically.
For example, the U. S. revised its
corporate-tax laws in 2004 to comply with a
WTO ruling against U.S. subsidies to American
corporations doing business abroad.
International trade promotes economic
liberty, gives consumers more choices and
saves people billions of dollars. It increases
the employment and incomes of workers.
The people in countries such as Cuba, North
Korea, Myanmar and Iran that abjure international
trade suffer as a result, while people
living in free-trade nations benefit.
Members of the Nobel Committee acknowledge
that they seek to have an impact on the
world by supporting their favorite causes.
Francis Sejersted, chairman of the committee
throughout the 1990s, said, “Awarding a peace
prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”
Trade should be everyone’s favorite cause.
Despite the huge benefits thatinternational
trade has provided the
world during the past 60
recently. The current
Doha round aims to reduce
on agriculture, services,
intellectual property and
other areas, but is floundering
as the U.S., EuropeandG-20
countries try toprotectlocal
The American commitment
trade has become more
tenuous. The Central
American Free Trade
Agreement would probably
not have been approved by the current
Congress, and several Democratic presidential
candidates have said that Nafta should be
reviewed.Many Europeans are critical of globalization,
ignoring the benefits that it
brings to both the developed and the developing
Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the
World Trade Organization would remind the
world that economic choice and economic
freedom is just as important at the macro
level as microcredit is at the micro level.
It would remind the world that economic
integration and economic freedom are essential
if the two billion people of China and
India are to achieve economic success, especially
if they are to achieve prosperity while
limiting greenhouse-gas emissions. Protectionist
measures against China, India and
the rest of the developing world would have
unfortunate economic, environmental and political
consequences for decades.
A 2008 Nobel Peace Prize for the World
Trade Organization would help to
strengthen its efforts to achieve worldwide
economic growth, economic freedom, political
freedom and international peace.