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The Tragedy of Trade Blindness

LONDON – The Doha Round of global free-trade negotiations is on the brink of collapse after ten years of talking. This is a tragedy in the making, because the gains available from what has already been agreed upon in the negotiations are considerable, and would provide a major boost to the global economy. Failure would thus constitute a serious indictment of political leaders in major trading countries in both the developed and developing worlds, possibly costing the global economy $700 billion in additional annual income.

By contrast, if the Round is completed, aside from this generalized gain, specific and important improvements would benefit the world’s least developed countries. The European Union, for example, has already agreed that all such countries will be afforded duty- and quota-free market access for their exports. Furthermore, EU export subsidies for agricultural products will be abolished from 2013.

Other such examples abound. But probably none will be realized if the general agreement completing the Round is not concluded. For the rule governing global trade rounds is that nothing is deliverable until everything is agreed.

Moreover, completing the Doha Round is crucial for the World Trade Organization. Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, said recently that his country “rejects the notion that this organization’s credibility and legitimacy are in a death embrace with the Round. The WTO is bigger than the Round and transcends it.”