Who killed Doha?

Even in a slow news period, it is hard to get anyone but the most focused wonk excited about global trade talks. But when the competing headlines are two wars in the Middle East, it is nigh-on-impossible. So, the death of the Doha round has received scant attention. It may seem like old news that ...

607697_Doha5.gif
607697_Doha5.gif

Even in a slow news period, it is hard to get anyone but the most focused wonk excited about global trade talks. But when the competing headlines are two wars in the Middle East, it is nigh-on-impossible. So, the death of the Doha round has received scant attention. It may seem like old news that Doha has collapsed, but on Monday night it passed the point of no return, even given the Rasputinesque qualities of trade negotiations.

The blame game is in full swing, with some rather undiplomatic language coming from all quarters. The European trade negotiator Peter Mandelson sniped that, "The United States has been asking too much from others in exchange for doing too little themselves. This is not my definition of leadership." This prompted the U.S. Trade Rep. Susan Schwab to retort that the EU's attempt to pin the blame on Uncle Sam was "false and misleading." All this buck passing leaves one wishing to roar, like Mercutio, "A plague on both your houses."

The United States is at fault for refusing to cut its absurd farm subsidies unilaterally. The Bush administration claims it wants to get rid of them, so why not do it anyway? The Europeans, meanwhile, deserve to be chastised for taking their usual approach to market access. This is all so infuriating when you consider, as The Economist points out, that the World Bank calculates that trade liberalization would grow the world economy by $287 billion and propel more than 60 million people out of poverty.

Even in a slow news period, it is hard to get anyone but the most focused wonk excited about global trade talks. But when the competing headlines are two wars in the Middle East, it is nigh-on-impossible. So, the death of the Doha round has received scant attention. It may seem like old news that Doha has collapsed, but on Monday night it passed the point of no return, even given the Rasputinesque qualities of trade negotiations.

The blame game is in full swing, with some rather undiplomatic language coming from all quarters. The European trade negotiator Peter Mandelson sniped that, “The United States has been asking too much from others in exchange for doing too little themselves. This is not my definition of leadership.” This prompted the U.S. Trade Rep. Susan Schwab to retort that the EU’s attempt to pin the blame on Uncle Sam was “false and misleading.” All this buck passing leaves one wishing to roar, like Mercutio, “A plague on both your houses.”

The United States is at fault for refusing to cut its absurd farm subsidies unilaterally. The Bush administration claims it wants to get rid of them, so why not do it anyway? The Europeans, meanwhile, deserve to be chastised for taking their usual approach to market access. This is all so infuriating when you consider, as The Economist points out, that the World Bank calculates that trade liberalization would grow the world economy by $287 billion and propel more than 60 million people out of poverty.

The bad news it is hard to see things getting better as U.S. politics turn increasingly protectionist and the EU thinks it’s a good idea to slap quotas on Chinese bras at the slightest hint of an “economic dislocation.” As the Swedish statesman Axiel Oxenstierna said back in the 17th century, “Behold, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.”

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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