Dead as a Doha?

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ImageAfter seven years of fitful trade negotiations, the WTO’s Doha Round has collapsed, and the post mortems have already hit the newsstands.  Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Keith Bradsher points to a new alliance between China and India, both pushing for so-called “safeguard” rules for agriculture, translating into uncapped tariffs on food imports from rich countries, ostensibly to support farmers in developing countries. 

Bradsher quotes an editorial in the official newspaper China Daily “This proposal [without safeguard rules] would put the livelihoods of vulnerable farmers of the developing world in danger due to cheap farm imports from the rich world.”  In another IHT article European Commission Chairman Peter Power opines:  “It is a massive blow to confidence in the global economy.  The confidence shot in the arm that we needed badly will not now happen.”  The article delves into possible repercussions of the impasse, like increased difficulty for smaller developing countries in gaining access to American, European and Japanese markets, as well as more uncertainty for future multilateral agreements addressing crucial issues like global warming.

A Financial Times editorial, “Multilateralism Not Dead as a Doha,” suggests Doha’s serial lack of progress is eroding the WTO’s credibility:  “It is no longer a question of getting Doha done to save the WTO; it is, regrettably, now largely a question of saving the WTO from Doha.”  But Mark Drajem and Jennifer M. Freedman, writing for Bloomberg, say the global trade talks’ collapse may be “only a bump in the road” for world commerce, which has continued to expand.  Trade has expanded by almost 6 percent a year over the last decade, with a 4.5 percent increase expected for this year.  Andrew Freris, chief Asia economist of BNP Paribas SA in Hong Kong, says reaching a Doha consensus wouldn’t have eased soaring prices of commodities such as wheat and soybeans:  “Liberalization of trade of agricultural products doesn't necessarily increase the supply of food.”

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