WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Prospects are dimming for a breakthrough in world trade talks before President George W. Bush leaves office in January, but a meeting of world leaders next month might be able to restore some momentum, a Canadian trade official said on Thursday.
“It’s all moving a little too slowly,” said Don Stephenson, a Canadian assistant deputy trade minister who stepped down in August as chairman of the manufactured goods negotiations in the World Trade Organization talks. “The hope is frankly beginning to fade.”
We know the benefits that will accrue from a successful Doha Round. We understand as well the opportunity costs of no deal. Failure to conclude the Round will not mean the demise of the WTO. We will still administer rules agreed over 60 years of negotiations. We will still adjudicate commercial disputes among members. We will still engage in monitoring and surveillance of government trade policies to ensure the most transparent trading system possible. But be in no doubt that such an outcome would hurt the credibility of our organization and the multilateral negotiating process that we oversee. Governments have said they will seek recourse to their trade problems through the dispute settlement system if they cannot negotiate rule changes. In my view, rule making through the judiciary rather than the legislature, as it were, is something which would not be sustainable.
Governments will also turn to regional or bilateral agreements rather than continue along the admittedly more difficult multilateral path. Such agreements have their place. I, myself, have negotiated a few of them in a previous life. But they are no substitute for a Doha deal. There are 430 regional and bilateral agreements in place today, 300 of these have been struck in the last eight years, and I can assure you that not one of them addresses the problem of excessive, trade-distorting farm subsidies. Not one of them will reduce the fisheries subsidies that threaten to empty our oceans. None will lead to the creation of global rules to facilitate trade or open globally trade in services.
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