The Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Exports was recently held for two days in Richmond. Who was the luncheon speaker? The former Director-General of the World Trade Organization Mike Moore.
Ambassador Moore followed Virginia Governor McDonnell’s presentation. This simple fact that the former Director-General of the WTO was the keynote speaker at a state level trade conference speaks volumes about the evolving nature of the global trading system.
This conference demonstrates almost more than anything else the growing inter-relationship between the WTO and sub-national units (states).
Who would have thought that a few years back that states would show the slightest interest in the workings of a multilateral trade organization?
In the United States the states remain, but not recognized by many, as important actors in both global trade and foreign relations.
It is the individual state that exercises primary responsibility for promoting both agricultural and non-agricultural exports as well as encouraging direct foreign investment. This is done in order to facilitate local economic development and job creation. States have more than once taken the lead in imposing trading sanctions (including investment restrictions) on foreign countries as they did against South Africa during Apartheid. Recent federal legislation (The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act of 2010) explicitly authorizes such actions and there have been calls for coordinated state-level action for pension-fund disinvestments.
To me this recent Virginia conference evidences the growing impact of globalization on all levels of government — international, national and local. There is no escaping this fact.
By the way the agricultural and forestry industries are the largest two industries in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Agriculture exports reached a new all-time high last year and China remains, by far, the top export market. Virginia is known to many as the home of the Internet but agriculture is a mainstay of its economy. It has an economic impact of $79 billion annually.
Agriculture remains the number one issue in global trade. It is the principal area of dispute that has hindered he conclusion of the Doha Round of trade liberalization. The need for removal of trade subsidies and market access restrictions is vital worldwide.
So this is why the WTO is relevant and important to business, states, and international trade relations today.
“Virginia Agricultural Exports Reach All-Time High in 2012.” Governor of Virginia Press Release (March 8, 2013).