Just in … some old news from Geneva:
“The WTO’s week-long “stocktaking” of the Doha Round trade talks ended on Friday with a whimper, not a bang. The much-touted goal of concluding the negotiations toward a global trade deal before the end of 2010 — an objective laid out byheads of state last year — was quietly set aside, as officials acknowledged that political hurdles continue to block progress in the round, much as they have for the past 18 months … As the negotiations stumble along with no end in sight, some observers – and even some delegates, when speaking privately – have said that it might be time to begin thinking about putting the Doha talks on hold for awhile, or even abandoning them altogether.” Extract from Bridges newsletter (ICTSD)
Surely, by now, it’s obvious (even in Geneva) that the tortured ‘single undertaking’ structure of the proposed Doha deal—designed to accommodate every policy option in the spectrum from less protection to more protection by way of elaborate exclusions, exceptions and disguises—is just not going to fly.
Let those who want to open markets find a sufficient number of trade partners to create a globe-spanning ‘free trade zone’ for traded agricultural products. Once they discover a ‘zone’ that provides a mercantilist basis for liberalization among the participants, let them form it without excluding others (to preserve non-discrimination in trade).
In our project on Alternative Frameworks for Agriculture Negotiations for the Australian Rural Research and Development Corporation, Andrew Stoler and I demonstrated that at such a free-trade zone can work. A ‘critical mass’ agreement among 35-or-so WTO members would be both technically and economically feasible and would deliver results comparable to the proposed Doha deal on agriculture.
I’ve prepared a pre-print (not for citation, please) of our full report to the RIRDC, that you can grab here. As well as our main conclusions, the documents contains papers on the economic modeling; the contributions from research institutions from Brazil, China, India and Indonesia; the results of the Global Trade Opinion Polls, and; analytical contributions from trade luminaries such as Kym Anderson (University of Adelaide), Simon Evenett (University of St Gallen), Ambassador Carlos Perez del Castillo (Former Chairman, WTO General Council), Sallie James (Cato Institute), Patrick Low (Chief Economist of WTO), Tim Josling (Stanford University), Peter Lloyd (University of Melbourne), Razeen Sally and Valentin Zahrnt (ECIPE), and Alan Winters (University of Sussex).