A memo to Roberto Azevêdo’s prospective successor
给罗伯托·阿泽维多未来继任者的一份备忘录

【双语】换位子 Trading places-书迷号 shumihao.com

SO YOU WANT to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). If successful, you will lead one of the world’s big multilateral institutions and rub shoulders with heads of state. The tax-free salary and benefits are cushy. But that is where the perks end. Here is what you can expect from the job.

想成为WTO下一任总干事?若成功争取到这份工作,您将领导世界大型多边机构之一,与各国元首打交道。工资免税,福利也很优厚。但好处也就这么多了。以下是您做这份工作将要面对的。

Trade in goods could fall by as much as a third this year. Even before covid-19, the trade rule book was in tatters. The pandemic seems set to make protectionist barriers rise even faster. Australia and China are squaring off. This, you might think, is your moment to shine. You might hope to broker grand deals, or, at the very least, to fix the WTO’s system of settling disputes.

货物贸易今年可能缩减三分之一之多。甚至在新冠疫情爆发之前,贸易规则就已被冲击得支离破碎。疫情似乎势必会进一步加速保护主义壁垒上升。澳大利亚和中国正在拉开架势。您也许认为这正是自己发光发亮的时刻。你可能希望能斡旋其中,协助打造大型贸易协议,或者最起码修复WTO的争端解决机制。

We suggest you manage those expectations—all the way down. Roberto Azevêdo, the departing director-general, was respected by members. But he found his diary emptying faster than a shipping broker’s order book. “There’s nothing happening in terms of regular work” at the WTO, he told Bloomberg recently. He is leaving a year before his term’s up. Forget building a new architecture of the global trading system, or haranguing members into lowering tariffs. If the WTO’s members do not want something, it will not happen. Your job instead is to focus on the smaller fry. Talks to limit subsidies for fisheries were the only ones going anywhere in recent months. Full steam ahead? Afraid not. They stalled on May 7th.

我们还是建议您控制住这样的期望——把它们放到最低。即将离任的总干事罗伯托·阿泽维多(Roberto Azevêdo)过去受到成员们的尊重,但他发现自己日程本的清空速度比货运经纪的订单还快。近期他对彭博社表示:“WTO在常规工作方面毫无进展。”他将提前一年结束任期。请您放弃打造全球贸易体系新架构的想法,也别想着能靠长篇大论、慷慨陈词说服成员国降低关税。成员国不想要的东西实现不了。相反,您的工作应该是专注于一些小鱼小虾。限制渔业补贴的谈判是近几个月来唯一有所进展的工作。是全速前进了吗?恐怕没有。这些谈判在5月7日也陷入了停滞。

You will discover that the WTO would be a marvellous institution were it not for its members. The poor ones want exemptions from rules that have not yet been written. The rich ones are loth to make the concessions needed to get anything done. Some of America’s lawmakers want to withdraw from the organisation (a “relic”) altogether. You might find yourself wishing they just got on with it. But their heft makes them useful, when they choose to be.

您会发现,要不是成员国的缘故,WTO会是一个了不起的机构。穷国希望从尚未制定的规则中获得豁免。富国讨厌要用让步换取任何进展。美国一些议员说WTO是旧时代的“遗物”,主张退出该组织。也许您希望他们干脆就退了,但他们的影响力又很有用,如果他们愿意配合的话。

Be cautious, like Mr Azevêdo, and you will be accused of getting too little done. Be ambitious, and, like his predecessor Pascal Lamy, you will be attacked for alienating members—and also for getting too little done. Best to expand your definition of success to include vaguely worded joint statements calling for free and fair trade.

如果像阿泽维多那样谨慎行事,您会被指责无所作为。如果像他的前任帕斯卡尔·拉米(Pascal Lamy)那样雄心勃勃,您又会因为开罪成员国而遭受攻击——以及被指责无所作为。最好拓宽对政绩的定义,把措辞含糊的呼吁自由公平贸易的联合声明也算在里头。

To become a candidate, a member must put you forward before July 8th. The winner must be agreeable to America, Europe and China. If such a person even exists, it probably won’t be one of their own. Perhaps that clears the way for the first African boss. Names being floated include Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s former WTO ambassador, and Yonov Frederick Agah, a Nigerian and Mr Azevêdo’s deputy.

要成为总干事候选人,必须有一个成员国在7月8日前提名您。胜出的必须是美国、欧洲和中国都认可的人。如果真有这样的人,大概不会来自这三个地方。也许这为WTO选出首位非洲总干事扫除了障碍。被提出的人选包括肯尼亚前WTO大使阿米娜·穆罕默德(Amina Mohamed)和阿泽维多的副手、尼日利亚人尤努夫·弗雷德里克·阿加(Yonov Frederick Agah)。

The Americans and the Europeans say they want to arrange a speedy replacement for Mr Azevêdo, who leaves on August 31st. But if the WTO’s past trade rounds are a guide, resolution won’t be swift. Many members will stall, in case Donald Trump loses America’s presidential election. Prepare to wait for months, even years.

美国人和欧洲人说,他们想要安排迅速落实人选,接替将于8月31日离任的阿泽维多。但如果是按WTO过去的贸易谈判回合的节奏,达成决议不会一蹴而就。许多成员国会拖延时间,看看特朗普是否会在总统大选中落败。这一拖可能就是几个月,甚至几年。

A quick approval, against those odds, could mean that members want to save the institution. Or it could mean that you are bland enough that no one could rouse themselves to object to your appointment: a sorry form of comparative advantage. ■

假如面对种种不利因素,继任人仍被迅速确定,那可能表明成员国希望拯救这个机构。不然就是因为您乏善可陈到谁都懒得反对:一种可怜的相对优势。