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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