Jagdish Bhagwati 101: Discover the Influential Trade Theorist
Zatrun Published at March 08, 2023

Jagdish Bhagwati is an Indian-American economist and legal scholar born on July 26, 1934, known as one of the most influential trade theorists of his generation. In this article by, you can find everything you need to know about Jagdish Bhagwati.

Who is Jagdish Bhagwati?

Jagdish Bhagwati is a professor of economics and law at Columbia University and a senior advisor on international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. Bhagwati has made significant contributions to the fields of international trade theory and economic development.

Jagdish Bhagwati is considered the intellectual father of the 1991 economic reforms in India. He is the only professor to have a chair named after him at an American university while still actively teaching. At Columbia University, only 10 researchers are known to hold the title of “University Professor.” Bhagwati has received prestigious awards such as the Order of the Rising Sun, Padma Vibhushan, Frank Seidman Distinguished Award in Political Economy, and the Swiss Freedom Prize.

In 2014, the Financial Times referred to him as “one of the most pioneering economists not to have won a Nobel Prize.” This view is shared by his colleagues, including Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman, who said, “What was important to me was that people didn’t fully understand how distortions in trade economics were linked to policy before Jagdish explained it. When Jagdish did, it was so clear and obvious that it was hard to think that someone needed to explain it. In my view, that shows that his work is Nobel-worthy.”

His Academic Career

After completing his doctorate, Bhagwati returned to India in 1961. He first served as a short-term teacher at the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata and then as a professor of international trade at the Delhi School of Economics at Delhi University from 1962 to 1968. He later returned to work in the American academy, serving as the Ford International Economics Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1968 to 1980.

From 1980 onwards, Bhagwati taught economics at Columbia University and held the positions of Arthur Lehman Economics Professor, Professor of Political Science, and later University Professor of Economics and Law. He is one of the few academics at Columbia University to hold the title of University Professor, alongside just 10 others.

Memberships and Contributions

Jagdish Bhagwati is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Philosophical Society. He currently serves on the Academic Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch (Asia) and the Research Board of the Centre for Civil Society.

He has held many important positions internationally, serving as the economic policy advisor to Arthur Dunkel, the director-general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a consultant on globalisation for the United Nations, and a member of a group established by the director-general of the World Trade Organisation. He also served on the advisory committee for the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s African Economic Development and Integration Program.

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