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USM alumnus and WTO Chief Economist Robert Koopman speaks on the future of trade


University of Southern Maine alumnus and World Trade Organization Chief Economist Robert Koopman spoke on Maine Public’s radio program “Speaking in Maine.”

Koopman, who graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, said he had a “great affinity for USM.”

“The education that USM gave me, both in in the classroom and outside the classroom, has served me very well,” he said. “I think institutions like USM are critical for the future of our country and our people.”

”The topic of the talk was “The Future of Trade: Technology, Geography and Economic Adjustment.”

Koopman warned of potential consequences of new tariffs on imports imposed by the current administration, which causes countries to look out only for their own interests.

"Do you know the game theory called 'prisoners' dilemma?'” he asked. “It's a non-cooperative solution where everybody essentially thinks 'I'm going to put on my high tariffs and I'm not going to face retaliation.' But everybody assumes that, so everybody retaliates, so we essentially recreate the great financial crisis."

Koopman, who also serves as the director of the WTO’s Economic Research and Statistic Division, also talked about the outlook of the world economy.

"The biggest risk that the central bankers all mention is continued trade conflict because of the uncertainty it creates in the US economy and the global economy," he said.

Koopman also  spoke about the effect that the US-China trade conflict has on the lobster industry in Maine.

"Canadian lobsters are not facing tariff retaliation; they can be shipped to China [tariff-free]," he said. “Because of a fair trade agreement with Europe, Canadian lobster exporters and fisherman can have an advantage into Europe."