Voice

Reacting to Obama's World Bank pick

President Obama's nomination of Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim for World Bank president is making waves. The almost universal initial response was surprise; Kim had featured in few if any discussions of likely American nominees. Here's a roundup of other reactions:

From a trusted World Bank source:

[M]y personal view is that it would be a pleasure to have someone at the top who is not just smart, but also a really nice guy.  Not sure how our Health people will be reacting.  Although even when he was director of the HIV/AIDS Department at WHO, he was clearly looking at HIV beyond a disease -- so interesting choice -- surprising, but I can see the potential.   And it of course feeds into the broader political agenda of having a South Korean born President.  Among the G20, South Korea is one of the very few countries that are not even represented at the VP-level (or higher).

The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt:

Kim’s appointment to head the Bank is pioneering for a different reason. The mission of the World Bank is to help lift people out of poverty, and Kim will be the first bank leader who has dedicated most of his professional life to working with and for the world’s poor.

With another pioneering physician-anthropologist, Dr. Paul Farmer, Kim established an organization dedicated to treating poor people in Haiti, Peru, Rwanda and beyond. The founding principle of Partners in Health was that everyone is entitled to first-class health care, no matter where they live or how poor they are.

Fellow nominee Jeffrey Sachs, who has now withdrawn his candidacy: "Prof Sachs supports Dr. Kim one hundred percent and with complete enthusiasm."

Anders Aslund, Peterson Institute for International Economics, via Politico:

This was really a surprise and not a good one...One question is whether such an apparently substandard candidate can really be appointed. This reminds of when George W. Bush tried to appoint Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.”

The Post's Ezra Klein, via Twitter:

Yesterday's CW: WH was totally screwing up the World Bank pick. Today's CW: They nailed it. Both might be right.

The Multilateralist

Japan goes multilateral on China

Today's Wall Street Journal notes that Japan's decision to join the U.S. and European complaint to the World Trade Organization about China's rare earth export restrictions is the first time Tokyo has resorted to the WTO in a dispute with China (if you're a subscriber, read the whole article here). The piece suggests that the case reflects a broader change in Japanese strategy:

Fearing confrontation and retaliation, Tokyo has until now opted to use bilateral channels to settle disputes with China. "We are beginning to feel bilateral talks don't work in some cases," one Japanese government official involved in the filing said. "They have to be dealt with multilaterally."

As the WTO data below indicate, both Japan and China have been quite sparing in their use of the WTO's formal dispute resolution process. Given the size of their economies, they are significantly less litigious than other major players:

Country

Cases brought

United States

100

European Union

86

Canada

33

Brazil

25

Mexico

21

India

20

Japan

15

Argentina

15

South Korea

15

China

8

Australia

7

Indonesia

5

Turkey

2

South Africa

0

Saudi Arabia

0