Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is anybody surprised?

Is anybody surprised by the collapse of the Doha negotiations after seven years of meetings, dinners, criss-crossings of the world by the negotiators and their staff, more meetings, more dinners? Everybody is blaming everybody else. The United States offered some more concessions but Brazil said it was not enough.

The European Union is in no mood for concessions and sticks to its protectionist policies. India and Brazil have constituted themselves to be spokescountries for the Third World and much good it did anyone. The rulers of various poor countries fear free trade because they know it will undermine the power and riches they get from aid and high excise duty (the easiest tax to collect).

And so on. And so on. Not being an economist I have no desire to wade into the morass of the details. The co-chairman of the Bruges Group, Dr Brian Hindley, gave a prescient talk on the subject last year. His predictions were gloomy and they have all come true.

The one thing that seems clear to many of us - these vast multilateral negotiations do not get us very far. If, on top of that, the European Union negotiates on behalf of the 27 members, as none of us have the right any longer to make international trade agreements, the picture remains rather dark. Clearly a return to bilateral negotiations, something the United States is increasingly practising (when the Democrat controlled House of Representatives under the slightly demented Speaker Pelosi does not mess things up), is what is needed. Of course, for that, we have to dispense with the European Union and that would really upset some people.

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