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There have been eight rounds of multilateral trade negotiations prior to Doha. Although they all ended well, it is important to remember that few went smoothly. Negotiators in Hong Kong now face real obstacles, but there is reason for hope -- if, that is, they have the will and courage to do what is necessary to succeed.
Today, the United States confronts four urgent challenges: imbalances in global trade and capital flows, South America's drift, Asia's economic integration, and the Muslim world's decline. International trade policy alone cannot solve these complex concerns, but it can play a pivotal role in dealing with each.
The Doha Round could become the first major multilateral trade talks to fail since the 1930s. To prevent a collapse, policymakers in the G-8 and key developing countries must resolve global monetary and current account imbalances, counter the backlash against globalization, and find a way to jolt the talks back to life.
Americans should care deeply about the Doha Round, but many do not understand what it means for them and the rest of the world. With the talks barely moving, it is time for supporters of free trade to educate the American people in order to give Washington the backing it needs to break the deadlock.
If trade talks were founded on a rational analysis of economic interests, they would be much easier to conduct and conclude. But most are not, and the Doha Round is no different. The key to ensuring that something worthwhile does emerge from it is to distinguish narrow political agendas from the broader public interest.
Agriculture will be the make-or-break issue in Hong Kong. On the surface, obstacles to an agreement seem insuperable. But a careful examination of the current agricultural trade regime reveals that prospects for an agreement are not as bleak as they appear.
World leaders have dubbed Doha the "development round" because they recognize how much free trade would do to foster development -- and how urgent the need for development is. For those hopes to be realized, both industrialized and developing nations must go further toward getting rid of existing barriers.