(American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research – Claude Barfield)
The title is harsh, but the goal is benign-save, or at least extract, the world trading system from the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations that has now dragged on for a decade without success. To achieve this end, the round should formally be ended.
Over the past several years, the possibility of a grand bargain that would produce major trade liberalization in manufacturing, services and agriculture has steadily diminished and has now disappeared. As this piece is written during the “dog days” of August, trade ministers and bureaucrats from World Trade Organization member states are engaged in a final desperate drive to come up with a face-saving “mini-package,” or Early Harvest, of trade concessions to present at a climactic meeting of WTO ministers in December. The goal of the package is to salvage benefits for the world’s poorest countries such as tariff-free, quota-free trade with developed countries, drastic reduction in subsidies for cotton, exemptions from major services trade liberalization, and trade facilitation programs such as logistical aid to move goods from farm and factory to air-and seaports.
The prospects for even a small package are dismal. The United States, through its ambassador to the WTO, Michael Punke, stated in July that a “so-called Early Harvest package is not happening and is not going to happen.” Punke urged WTO negotiators not to spend more time on this effort, but rather concentrate in the lead up to the December Ministerial on issues that look beyond the current Doha stalemate and forward to the future of the WTO itself. Punke is halfway to a sensible position-but unfortunately, he and the Obama administration stopped short of biting the bullet by calling for a definitive end to the Doha Round. Read more here.