Remember those WTO negotiations called the Doha round? They’re back!
In November, Germany, the U.K., Indonesia, and Turkey commissioned Peter Sutherland and Jagdish Bhagwati to co-chair a report on the Doha negotiations and their future. Its release (pdf) this afternoon, coupled with informal talks by 25-30 trade ministers (UPDATE: more details from WSJ) at the Davos festivities, has people talking about the Doha round’s prospects in 2011. The report provocatively calls for a deadline to the negotiations, saying that:
No individual player is willing to be the first to declare the Round moribund, knowing that they will then be accused of precipitating its demise. At the same time, there is not sufficient political momentum to push for a final deal. The only way to change this is to make the prospect of failure concrete, collective and unavoidable. At the G20 level political leaders should set themselves a deadline within 2011 by which the Round must be completed or declared a failure. This deadline should be inflexible and bind all players at the level of Heads of Government.
If the final Doha package is not before the US Congress by mid-2011, it will get caught up in the electoral cycle. Given the poisonous atmosphere on trade in the US – made much worse by high unemployment and Tea Party populism – the Obama Administration would most likely suspend further talks until 2013 at the earliest. This would pose a very real danger. If Doha were put on hold until 2013, there is a good chance that it would never get done.
At Davos, David Cameron and Angela Merkel are saying it’s time for Doha to be done. This is the most active discussion of the WTO negotiations in quite a while. Does it mean they’ll get the deal done?