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Did America Really Kill the Trade Talks?

It is appalling that the world has decided to blame the United States for the crushing end to five years of global trade talks last month (the so-called “Doha round”). I am the first to admit that the US under President George W. Bush has not covered itself with multilateral glory in recent years. But accuse America of sabotaging the trade talks? Give me a break.

Has anybody noticed that for more than a decade now, US imports have been averaging several hundred billion (thousand million) dollars more than exports? Do people seriously believe that the US has accomplished its majestic trade deficit by shutting its doors to foreign goods?

On the contrary, through its low tariffs and general lack of import restrictions, the US has turned itself into an international shopping theme park. Americans buy more foreign-made refrigerators, cars, clothing, computers – you name it – than anyone else. Happily for world exporters, the same binge mentality that makes a whopping two-thirds of Americans either overweight or obese seems to extend to all their purchasing habits. Since the start of this decade, neither recession nor hurricanes nor sky-high oil prices have seemed to dent their appetites.

The simple fact is that even if US trade negotiator Susan Schwab had refused to make a single “concession,” and if Europe, Japan, and the big emerging markets had kept their best offers on the table, the US would still remain more open than all but a few small countries.