Who killed Doha?

Bruce Bartlett blames the US in general, and George Bush in particular, for “the death of Doha”:

Last week, the Doha Round of trade talks collapsed. Future historians may well conclude that of all the Bush administration’s economic mistakes, this one was the biggest. That is because we may have just seen the end of the free-trade consensus that has been at the core of U.S. international economic policy for both parties since World War II. The result may be a new era of protectionism that could be extraordinarily costly and painful.

I am not so sure.  Measured by the amount of protectionism they were giving up, the US offer was more stingy than the Europeans.  But measured by the tariffs, quotas and subsidies they would still have in place after the deal, the US would have been less protectionist than the Europeans, as they are now.  It was incumbent on Europe to make the most concessions; and had we done so, the US might well have felt obliged to match them.

Of course, every country should abolish all tariffs, quotas and subsidies, unilaterally and immediately, in their own interests as well as everyone else’s.  But in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of trade negotiations, we still talk about changes which would be in our own interest as “concessions”.

In the meantime, Alan Beattie, in the FT (behind firewall, but reproduced in full here) reckons that the WTO should not try to be a development institution.  I don’t agree: I think it is entirely reasonable for the members of the WTO to want to give priority to changes in trade rules that will tend to promote economic development in the poorest countries.

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Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and