Doha dissection

It’s tough to pull off a track stand. The Doha round is falling over, says Simon Evenett:

It was bad enough when the Doha Round of trade negotiations was deadlocked; now there are dangerous signs that what progress has been made is unravelling. Over the past four weeks the leading trading powers have moved backwards from a number of established positions. Either senior trade negotiators are planning an extraordinarily welcome summer surprise or they are positioning themselves for the blame game when the music finally stops.

Evenett is disturbed by this state of affairs, arguing that Doha needs to be completed before the US presidential election in 2008, as trade liberalization never does well on the campaign trail. He says “procrastination is a luxury WTO members cannot afford.”

On the other hand, procrastination looks like the most likely outcome. I doubt any serious progress will be made this summer. And so does Evenett, I suspect, given that most of his column reads more like an autopsy than a prescription to save the patient. Many are already thinking of the aftermath:

[S]talemate looms. Much depends on how the associated media game is played. Maybe a graceful way will be found to conclude the negotiations without an agreement? Maybe senior trade negotiators and WTO officials will argue for continuing the talks after an 18-24 month hiatus? Or will the talks collapse into irreparable acrimony? Much depends on how the major trading powers fancy their chances at the “blame game.” Indeed, I often wonder if the current tactics of some trading nations are aimed at completing the Doha Round or aimed at positioning themselves for the next multilateral trade negotiation.

Read the full piece for a number of insights into the last month or so of trade (non-)negotiations.

[Apologies for mixing bicycling and medical metaphors throughout. I blame Tom Friedman. 🙂 ]