Don’t Cry for Doha

The latest failure of global trade talks has alarmed many, but the collapse of the negotiations was both inevitable and inconsequential. The Doha Round was constructed on a myth, namely that an agenda focused on agriculture would constitute a “development round,” and that its success was crucial to lifting tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people out of poverty.

CAMBRIDGE – Will they or won’t they? Will the world’s trade ministers eventually sign a new multilateral trade agreement that reduces agricultural subsidies and industrial tariffs, or will they walk away empty-handed? The saga has been ongoing since November 2001, when the current round of negotiations was launched in Doha, Qatar, with numerous subsequent ups and downs, near-collapses, and extensions.

The latest round of talks in Geneva has once again failed to produce an agreement.  Judging by what the financial press and some economists say, the stakes could not be higher.

Conclude this so-called “development round” successfully, and you will lift hundreds of millions of farmers in poor countries out of poverty and ensure that globalization remains alive. Fail, and you will deal the world trading system a near-fatal blow, fostering disillusionment in the South and protectionism in the North. And, as the editorialists hasten to remind us, the downside is especially large at a time when the world’s financial system is reeling under the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the United States is entering a recession.  

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