Survey of Doha’s costs and benefits

A long article by Alan Beattie, World Trade editor of the Financial Times, today assesses the disappointing state of the Doha round WTO negotiations as Ministers from 149 member countries (welcome, Saudi Arabia) prepare for their conference in Hong Kong. Beattie’s conclusion is a guarded endorsement of the multilateral approach; risky and slow but less prejudicial to developing countries and more valuable than a trading system organized on bilateral lines.

Beattie seeks answers to the question: “Is the game worth the candle?”

He quotes the great …

Chairman of BP and first WTO Director-General, Peter Sutherland: “We are now facing an extremely dangerous situation”

the aggrieved …

Zambian Ambassador Dipak Patel: “This is supposed to be a development round, not a market access round”

the agricultural …

Austrian farm minister, Joseph Pröll: “I do not want see the process of brinkmanship being replaced by one of blamesmanship”

and, the antagonistic.

Dr Razeen Sally at LSE: “These are all symptoms of the increasing UN-isation of the WTO

He also briefly quotes my article on the remaining wiggle room

How does he answer his question? What value should we put on the multilateral trading system? As any economist would, Beattie considers the opportunity cost, with a warning that we may bear it if the Doha round fizzles:

“In the end, the developing countries will have more to lose than rich nations from the undermining of the WTO as a negotiating forum. But the continual delay and intransigence mean that even their patience has been sorely tried. A failed or weak agreement on Doha could be the last effort of its kind.”( FT Comment & analysis – The multilateral approach is called into question )

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