Cracking the Wrong Nuts

By November 5, 2009General, Trade

In the November 4, 2009, Toronto Globe and Mail, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy was quoted as saying that a Doha round deal can be concluded soon: “We are nearly there,” he said, “but there remain a few nuts to crack, mostly the U.S.”

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) finds this comment unfortunate and distressing. The United States, which was instrumental in creating the post-World War II trading system that has served the world so well, which has led other nations – sometimes kicking and screaming – to liberalize world trade and open their markets in every negotiation since the Geneva Round of 1947, and which is pressing so hard for global market opening in the Doha Round, is not a “nut to be cracked.”

Rather than singling out the United States and seeking to pressure the Obama Administration to accept a deal the Bush Administration had already rejected, Mr. Lamy should focus his efforts on those WTO members who are still reluctant to offer substantial new market access. U.S. negotiators have been working tirelessly for a deal that creates significant and genuine new market openings that would benefit not just American firms, but firms in all countries – including in the poorest countries, who are key intended beneficiaries of the Doha Round.

Based on the recent estimates of the prestigious Institute for International Economics, without the sectoral tariff cutting agreements the U.S. is working so hard to achieve, the current (un-agreed) Doha Round text would barely increase world manufactured goods exports one percent. Furthermore, most of that gain would not occur for up to 10 years. And the situation in the services negotiations is even worse.

For over eight years the U.S. has been consistent in saying that only a balanced and ambitious outcome – not just for U.S. producers, but for all producers globally — is acceptable. The Doha Round is not there yet, and will not get there if Mr. Lamy continues to view the U.S. as a nut to be cracked rather than reinforcing the U.S. effort to obtain more trade liberalization globally.

Frank Vargo is Vice President, International Economic Affairs, National Association of Manufacturers

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