Graham Searjeant, Financial Editor for The Times of London, has a slightly different take on the end of the Doha Round – “Doha: doomed before it started”:
In particular, apparent concessions on agricultural subsidies, tariffs and quotas always turned out to be less than they seemed, because to give the developing world what it wanted would radically undermine the farming industries of the North, possibly threatening rural life from California to Cracow.
France, the most agricultural of the main EU powers, kept trying to hold back EU concessions, knowing the power of its farmers to bring the country’s life to a stop. The spring riots in France, though unconnected, probably ended any chance of an accord.
Neither President Chirac nor the French government dared provoke the farmers into the even more serious riots that would follow what they saw as a sell-out. Many others were happy to shelter behind the French position.
In other words, Doha failed because nations focused on their agricultural past, not their information future.
Searjeant ends up in the same position as I do, looking for better mechanisms:
If it is accepted, however, that the era of the grand, multi-year trade negotiation is over, important gains could still be made. For instance, an agreement was made in Hong Kong to phase out subsidies to agricultural exports. This should happen anyway.
The developed world, in return, can reasonably demand that its trading partners respect intellectual property rights from brand names to computer software, and that they enforce these rights effectively. Step-by-step deals could then be led by the WTO itself without investing all the political capital sunk in a mega trade round.
If Doha does prove to be a failure, all is not lost. Learning from the mistakes can usher in more sensible ways to foster trade and expand the huge benefits that it brings.