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Building on a Track Record

The Institute is building on the track record of the Trade Policy Research Centre, London, when it was active in the 1970s and 1980s. At that time many governments, preoccupied with immediate issues, made use of the TPRC’s authoritative analyses, publications and “informal” roundtable meetings.

Of lasting value was the Centre’s pioneering work on how to tackle in multilateral trade negotiations (i) the competition-distorting effects of non-tariff measures, (ii) the extension of the trade-liberalizing process to the services sector and (iii) the reduction of levels of farm-support and the import restrictions required to sustain them.

Closely associated with the Centre’s work over two decades were many eminent names in international economics, commercial diplomacy and public discussion. Most prominent among them in shaping the research program were Harry G. Johnson, W.M. Corden, Martin Wolf and Brian Hindley.

The first three directors-general of the GATT actively encouraged and participated in the Centre’s activities - Sir Eric Wyndham White on the board, Olivier Long in two high-level groups and Arthur Dunkel in numerous international meetings. Others associated with the GATT - from one of its principal architects, James E. Meade, to senior officials like Gardner Patterson and Jan Tumlir, also on the board, and the legal scholar Robert E. Hudec - helped to stimulate thought and analysis.

Many others in public life took part in the Centre’s high-level meetings, among them William E. Brock III, Lydia Dunn, Count Otto Lambsdorff, Staffan Burenstam Linder, Harald B. Malmgren, Nam Duck-Woo, Saburo Okita, Cecil Parkinson, Helga Steeg, Robert S. Strauss, Amnuay Viravan and Clayton Yeutter.

The Centre’s effectiveness owed much to its ability to draw on specialists in other countries who were well placed through their professional work and experience to produce papers on how particular issues might be resolved or ameliorated. In that network were…

In Western Europe: V.N. Balasubramanyam, Sir Alec Cairncross, W.M. Corden, Gérard Curzon, Victoria Curzon Price, Juergen Donges, Herbert Giersch, Sidney Golt, Sir Roy Harrod, Theodor Heidhues, David Henderson, Brian Hindley, Pierre Jacquet, T.E. Josling, Deepak Lal, Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Assar Lindbeck, I.M.D. Little, Alasdair MacBean, T.M. Rybczynski, Stefan Tangerman and Jean Waelbroeck.

In North America: Robert E. Baldwin, Jagdish Bhagwati, Isaiah Frank, Rodney de C. Grey, D. Gale Johnson, Richard Lipsey and Ingo Walter; and

In the Asia-Pacific region: Kym Anderson, Gary Banks, Kihwan Kim, Peter J. Lloyd, David Robertson, Hadi Soesastro, Richard Snape, Andrew Stoeckel, Augustine H.H. Tan and Soogil Young.

"It is some years since I was working in Whitehall for the establishment, once the war was over, of a liberal trade regime. Today, alas, we are seeing many of the mistakes of the inter-war period being repeated… I am so glad there are people like Hugh Corbet and the Trade Policy Research Centre to keep the flag flying" —JAMES E. MEADE, one of the GATT’s principal architects and later a Nobel Laureate in Economics, Cambridge, England, in 1986.

"… I need only recall the pioneering work of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. They were the ones to establish the fundamental and last principles of international as they are known today… People in Britain could not simply rest on those historical laurels. One piece of evident that they haven’t is the Trade Policy Research Centre whose activities and influence extend well beyond the British Isles" —Count OTTO LAMBSDORFF, then Minister of Economics, Federal Republic of Germany, in 1983.

The TPRC’s work was mainly behind the scenes. In the 1970s its studies and meetings stimulated much of the thinking and analysis that shaped the Tokyo Round negotiations of 1973-79. These included a major study group composed of Lord McFadzean, Sir Alec Cairncross, W.M. Corden, Sidney Golt, Harry G. Johnson, James Meade and T.M. Rybczynski, which yielded Towards an Open World Economy (1972).

Then in 1982-88, the Centre convened — in different parts of the world — eight "informal" roundtable meetings of trade ministers, senior officials, business leaders and independent experts that helped to crystallize thinking in launching and promoting the Uruguay Round negotiations of 1986-94. Discussion at each of the meetings was based on an independent analysis of a selected range of issues on the international trade agenda that sought to raise sights above immediate disputes and issues of the day.

The TPRC is no longer active, but Hugh Corbet, its internationally respected director for two decades, has been engaged as the Cordell Hull Institute's president.


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    "Informal" Roundtable Meetings

    "The Trade Policy Research Centre has played an imaginative and significant role in bringing new ideas … to the attention of governments. Its special reports and informal roundtable meetings have pioneered a more thoughtful and rigorous discussion…"

    Director-General of the
    GATT, in 1987

    RTAs in an Integrating World Economy

    "In an age of rapid transport and communications around the whole world, it is a paradox of contemporary politics that emphasis is still put on geographical propinquity, and the political movements it has generated, as a guide to action. In the 1970s, as never before, it is necessary to think globally and acknowledge that the economic and political interests of nations are defined, not by their locations in relation to a continent or an ocean, but by the network of their relations with other countries throughout the international community"

    — HARRY G. JOHNSON and HUGH CORBET in "Pacific
    Trade in an Open World", Pacific Community, Tokyo, April 1970

    Extending Trade Rules to Services

    "Since [the early 1970s] the Trade Policy Research Centre has played a key role in the development of international thinking on trade and investment in services"

    International Trade in Services (Washington, DC: American
    Enterprise Institute, 1988)

    "A parallel pioneering effort was undertaken by Hugh Corbet, director of the Trade Policy Research Centre, [who] commissioned studies … that provided seminal thinking for the subsequent surge in policy analysis and public debate"

    — ERNEST H. PREEG in Traders
    in a Brave New World
    University of Chicago Press, 1995)

    Aggregate Measurement of Support

    "[Producer subsidy equivalents] have so far been used mainly as a tool for policy analysis. Active consideration is now being given to the concept as a basis for commitments in trade negotiations, as originally suggested by Hugh Corbet and Jane Niall in a [1976] study for the Trade Policy Research Centre"

    — STEFAN TANGERMAN et al., "Negotiations on Farm-support Levels", The World Economy, Oxford and Boston, September 1987