Monika Milewicz

The Polish American Chamber of Commerce was among the co-organizing sponsors at the Chicago Conference on the Global Economy that took place on September 15-16, 2003, at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. The conference was organized by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations; the University of Chicago School of Business; the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; and World Business Chicago. More than 400 participants registered for „Chicago’s signature event for international business and political leaders”, which happened to be held right after the WTO’s ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

A VERY TIMELY FIASCO The ministers representing WTO’s 146 member countries who met in Cancun, discussed farm trade liberalization, based on a tariffcutting formula for developed countries and a different one for developing countries which would allow them to reduce border protection. There were many other issues on the WTO’s agenda. Unfortunately, the concessions of the wealthy countries were insufficient. On the other hand, the poor undeveloped countries were not flexible enough. The main result of the Cancun meeting was frustration and anger, which benefited Chicago’s conference: the future of the global trading system – the main theme of the conference – became an important and timely issue.

NO CONSENSUS? According to many speakers at Chicago’s conference, some of whom arrived in the Windy City directly from Cancun, the prognosis for next year is very poor. First of all, the Cancun failure is more than a lost economic opportunity. It could significantly weaken the WTO as an institution. It could also slow down world trade and globalization. Some at the Chicago conference signaled that the U.S. as well as other countries may now prefer bilateral free trade agreements (e.g., Chile, Singapore) to the multilateral ones. This would be very disadvantageous to the economic Lilliputians. It is possible, then, that the undeveloped countries and their poor populations lost another economic chance in Cancun. Many still seem to forget that power is not only unity, but also wisdom.

POLES TO THE RESCUE One of the most sobering post- Cancun voices at the Chicago conference was that of Miroslaw Zielinski, Poland’s deputy minister of economy, labor and social policy. Originally scheduled for day one, due to his late arrival from Cancun Zielinski was keynote speaker during the second day of the conference. According to Bogdan Pukszta, Board Member of the Polish American Chamber of Commerce, who introduced Zielinski at the Chicago conference, the Minister’s late arrival was actually a positive piece of news from the failed WTO gathering. It signaled that at least some ministers tried hard to salvage the meeting. And as for the Chicago conference, it was a resounding success, in part because it followed the controversial and failed effort in Cancun.

The conference has also contributed towards enhancing Chicago’s status as a global city. And the Polish American Chamber of Commerce plans to support next year’s event as well.

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