Courtesy Reuters

With or Without Doha


In the spring of 1945, Franklin Roosevelt's last message to Congress set out his vision of the postwar economic challenge the United States would face. Predicting that "the world will either move toward unity and widely shared prosperity, or it will move apart," Roosevelt called global trade talks the chance "to lay the economic basis for the secure and peaceful world we all desire."

Sixty years later, this global vision remains at the heart of U.S. economic policy. But the international trading system has its flaws and inadequacies. The common framework established by the World Trade Organization -- a cornerstone of global growth -- is a limited one. Political inertia, slow reaction time, a tendency to produce least-common-denominator agreements, a desire for more selective trading privileges, and the system's understandable inability to address the pressing concerns of each individual member have led countries around the world to pursue additional agreements and understandings.

The Doha Round's focus on agricultural reform and manufacturing tariffs is an admirable attempt to align the treatment of industries and products that are important to the poor with that afforded the high-tech and heavy industries. But today, the United States confronts a series of challenges that are at least as urgent as Doha and which the Doha negotiations are not going to solve. Some are beyond the scope of the talks. Others, such as U.S. economic engagement with India and Russia, are bilateral in nature. Still others are fundamentally regional or may require involvement by wealthier nations in concert with the United States. Whatever the outcome of the Doha Round, four issues in particular will remain pressing for the United States.

First, global trade and capital flows are dangerously unbalanced. With a current account deficit nearing 7 percent of GDP, the United States is effectively relying on Asia's willingness to cover the U.S. budget deficit and Americans' shopping bills. Conditions in Asian countries and some other big economies mirror U.S. vulnerabilities, as

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