Don’t cry for Doha

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Alan Beattie had a thoughtful piece on trading ritual and reality in the FT yesterday:

The reality is that the great wave of globalisation since the end of the cold war has had a lot less to do with ministers signing paper trade agreements – most of which are anaemic – and a lot more to do with innovative businesses getting on and doing things…

The 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations, for example, signed a free trade agreement in 1991. But although trade within the region has grown rapidly, less than 10 per cent of exports use the special tariff rates available under the pact, partly because the rules are so complex. Digitisation, lower transport costs and improved supply chain management have had far more impact on the region than lower tariffs…

The most protected sectors now are either – as in much of agriculture – ferociously defended by the beneficiaries or – as in services – sufficiently complex that writing binding agreements is hard. Witness the lack of progress in official attempts further to liberalise transatlantic trade, one of the biggest and most vibrant trading relationships on earth…

The evidence so far is that with world commerce itself doing fine, there is little contribution to greater globalisation being made by negotiated reductions in official barriers to trade.

It’s worthwhile to read the full column.

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