LIKE the showman he sometimes was, Peter Sutherland, on December 15th 1993, concluded seven years of torturous trade negotiations by banging a gavel. He received a standing ovation. Mr Sutherland, who died on January 7th, had an indispensable role in dragging the “Uruguay round” of trade talks to agreement. He did not know that this was to be the last such comprehensive, multilateral trade deal of his lifetime.

As director-general of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and, on its founding, of the World Trade Organisation, the Irishman was the public face of bodies helping to integrate the global economy. The sobriquet “father of globalisation” was, at the time, a compliment. He remained proud of the WTO. In 2004 he wrote that “for the first time in history, the world can embrace a rules-based system for economic coexistence.”

Mr Sutherland, a lawyer by training, came to Geneva by way of the Irish attorney-general’s office and the European Union. Briefly in charge of the EU’s education policy, he founded the Erasmus student-exchange programme to promote European integration. As competition commissioner from 1985 to 1989, his activism drew Margaret Thatcher’s ire: he was “that awful man in Brussels”.

After leaving the WTO in 1995, his career embodied the globalisation he had championed. He chaired both leading multinationals (BP, Goldman Sachs International), and worthy intellectual enterprises (the Trilateral Commission, the London School of Economics). His career was enough to make enemies among those who saw globalisation as an elite conspiracy. He was seen as having both fostered the process and made a lucrative career out of it. But he did more to stoke the anti-globalists’ wrath, becoming, as a UN special representative, one of the most prominent advocates of the benefits of the free movement of people. He outraged nationalists in 2012 with remarks suggesting that undermining “homogenisation”—ie, smudging national identities—was not so much an unfortunate side-effect of migration, as the point of it.

So on his passing, Breitbart, the digital voice of the alt-right, excoriated him as a “notorious mass-migration and multiculturalism campaigner”. But he is much mourned by those, like this newspaper, sharing his hopes for “noble experiments in multilateralism”, and worrying like him that they have “not always been sustained or developed as their founding fathers intended”.