International Challenges Facing Obama Administration Focus of Lawrence University Lecture Series

APPLETON, WIS. — Against a backdrop of world-wide economic distress and ongoing threats of terrorism, Lawrence University’s annual Povolny Lecture Series in International Studies focuses on some of the global challenges facing the administration of President Barack Obama in the four-part series “What Should Obama Do?”

Paul Blustein, journalist-in-residence in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., opens the series Thursday, April 16 with the address “U.S. and World Trade Disorganization” at 7 p.m. in the Wriston Art Center auditorium. All lectures in the series are free and open to the public.

A specialist in international trade and economic policy, Blustein will examine challenges facing the World Trade Organization, particularly the possibility of an “erosion” in its authority as the chief rule maker and arbiter of international trade, which he says “could be highly damaging to the world’s long-term economic health.” Blustein will discuss Obama’s options to prevent the international trading system from following the financial system into global crisis.

Fueling the WTO’s woes, says Blustein, was the failure of its 153 member nations to reach an agreement in the Doha Round, the series of negotiations launched shortly after 9/11 aimed at lowering trade barriers in a way that would most benefit poor countries. The round is named for the capital of Qatar, the location of the WTO meeting where the talks were initiated.

Blustein attended the WTO meeting in Doha as well as last summer’s session in Geneva, Switzerland, where the talks collapsed after a nine-day meeting of trade ministers.

As a result of the Doha failure and the global world-wide economic downturn, Blustein calls the WTO’s ability to continue performing its crucial role in the international order “imperiled.”

A Rhodes Scholar, Blustein joined the Brookings Institute in 2006 after spending 30 years covering economic policy issues for Forbes Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. While at The Wall Street Journal, he was recognized in 1985 with the prestigious Gerald Loeb Award, which honors journalists who make significant contributions to the understanding of business, finance and the economy.

Blustein is the author of two books, “The Chastening: Inside the Crisis That Rocked the Global Financial System and Humbled the IMF” in 2001 and “And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out): Wall Street, the IMF, and the Bankrupting of Argentina” in 2005. He is currently working on a third book about the WTO and the Doha Declaration.

Joining Blustein on this year’s series will be:

• April 21 — Robert Becker, Lawrence’s Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor, former U.S. foreign service officer and deputy head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Croatia, “U.S. and European Relations.” Becker will discuss the importance of the two continental societies working collaboratively in the face of common financial, terrorist, ecological, social-migration and international criminal threats.

• April 29 — Peter Blitstein, associate professor of history at Lawrence, “Russian-American Relations and the Obama Administration.” Blitstein will review the different approaches Western nations, including the United States, have used in their relations with Russia, make the case only one of these approaches is effective and examine the issues facing the current U.S.-Russia relationship from that standpoint.

• May 12 — Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, director general of Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology and former governor of Guanajuato, Mexico, “Mexico and the U.S.”

The “What Should Obama Do” lecture series is sponsored by the Mojmir Povolny Lectureship in International Studies. Named in honor of long-time Lawrence government professor Mojmir Povolny, the lectureship promotes interest and discussion on issues of moral significance and ethical dimensions.