A symbolic Doha?

Joseph Francois, who was previously skeptical of others’ emphasis on completing the Doha to address the crisis, say it’s “still true that the substance of the Doha Round will not impact the current crisis.” But now he supports completing the round, because doing so would be “a potent symbol of commitment.”

I’m skeptical of that line of reasoning. First, if world leaders are smart, they’ll invest their limited energies in supporting measures that have both substantive and symbolic impact. Second, I don’t know what the value of a symbolic commitment would be (I know that past efforts have proven hollow). Finally, I just don’t expect countries to restrain themselves – as Francois himself notes, the EU is introducing new export subsidies and the US Congress is gunning for China. Francois’ plea that “We are in this together. Just say no…” is likely as futile as Nancy Reagan’s.

Along related lines, Will Wilkinson complains about economists recommending policies that target psychological confidence rather than substance, when they don’t seem to have done much reliable work on that subject.