Let's Make a Deal

How to Bring the Doha Trade Talks to a Close

Originally scheduled to conclude in 2005, the Doha Round trade negotiations have dragged into their ninth year, with no end in sight. The Doha Round was launched in November 2001 with the ambitious goal of liberalizing world trade and lifting living standards around the globe, especially in the least developed nations of the world. An agreement on the Round would offer universal economic benefits by reducing farm subsidies, opening up new markets, and spurring investment. Yet without a final consensus on Doha, the WTO continues to lose its preeminence in the global trading system, as its members increasingly pursue trade interests, if at all, through bilateral agreements.

Many of the obstacles facing the Doha negotiations are political. The resolution that came out of the G-20 meeting in Toronto earlier this year was especially vapid: the best the G-20 member states could muster was to reiterate support for coming to an agreement and for direct negotiators to "report on progress at our next meeting in Seoul," where the G-20 "will discuss the way forward." In other words, nothing is expected to happen.

But what are the world's largest economies, as well as everyone else, missing out on in the meantime? A recent book published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Figuring Out the Doha Round, examines the prospective economic benefits of an agreement for the 22 major Doha participants (7 developed and 15 developing countries). Together, these nations account for roughly three-quarters of all global imports and exports and nearly 90 percent of global GDP.

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