Beyond Doha – the next trade agenda

According to Reuters, the Doha Round of the trade negotiations is over: “Trade power talks collapse”:

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy told the G6 late on Sunday he would halt the Doha Development Agenda — launched in 2001 to ease poverty and boost the global economy — without a quick end to the deadlock, diplomats said earlier.
But 14 hours of talks yielded no breakthrough on Sunday and ministers were meeting again on Monday not to negotiate but to discuss what the next steps should be, diplomats said.

Frankly this comes as no surprise (see my earlier postings – “Future of trade talks” and “Trade focus shifting to IMF?“).
Discussing the next steps, however, is likely to be as messy as the negotiations themselves. The breakdown is essential over the issue of agriculture. Anti-globalization forces will claim victory as well. But agriculture and the perceived backlash against globalization are only part of the problem. As I stated back at the beginning of the Round in 2001 (in After Doha: What The WTO Is Not Talking About, many of the real issues weren’t even on the table:

Slightly less than a decade ago, I played a small part in the implementation of the Uruguay Round and the birth of the WTO. As a Senate trade policy staffer, I had fly-on-the-wall view of the pushing and shoving. At the time, I could not help but think that I was witnessing the last major trade round. I may be proven wrong. But, regardless of whether a new round is launched and successfully completed, it will be outdated before it begins. As we engage in the first war of the 21st century, we may be entering into the last trade negotiations of the 20th Century.
This is not to say that the negotiations are unimportant. There are numerous areas, ranging from agricultural subsidies to the dispute settlement process, that need to be addressed. These are, however, the loose ends of trade in the Industrial Age – not the emerging issues of the Information Era.

It remains to be seen if Pascal Lamy and the WTO can move the agenda into the 21st Century. It maybe, as I mused about before, the focus of the discussion needs to move to other venues.

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