The Lameness That is Doha, T-Shirt Edition

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 7/21/2008 08:53:00 PM
Oh dear, it's not a very good sign when the gift shop at WTO headquarters is now taking part in poking fun at the Canterbury Tales-length negotiation process officially known as the Doha Development Agenda. Agence-France Presse has cleverly entitled its feature on the T-shirt sales as "been there, done that, got the T-shirt." Actually, it's "been there, done that, saw the movie, bought the T-shirt." Unfortunately, I highly doubt that there are enough dramatic elements to make much of a box office hit out of the Doha round [zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz]. Even the anti-globalization protesters have been resolutely lame in the busting up property / attacking riot police departments. If they decide to make a picture anyway, I'd like to play Pascal Lamy despite looking absolutely nothing like the WTO Director-General and not speaking any French besides. My recurring line? "Mon ami, the deal ees jus round se corner" [rimshot!] Thank you, thank you, take my wife please, etc.

Lame jokes aside, this story nonetheless reminds me of Pietra Rivoli's book The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade. Take it out of the library if you have the chance.

Ministers suffering from "negotiation fatigue" as the World Trade Organisation tries yet again to break the deadlock on the Doha round can at least get a new outfit in the form of commemorative T-shirts. One such shirt distributed by the WTO, yours for a mere 35 Swiss francs (22 euros), reads: "The right Doha deal at the right time." [What does this say about the WTO when it tries to rip off delegates with a 22 T-shirt? The symbolism is not lost on me.]

Another bears the legend "Doha Round World Tour" on the front while the back included dates and location of previous ministerial meets -- not perhaps the most auspicious roll-call given the WTO's history of inconclusive and fractious meetings since the Doha round was launched in 2001.

Ministers from around 35 key countries are meeting in Geneva this week in a bid to hammer out a global trade deal which has so far proved elusive.

The Doha round of negotiations was launched with great fanfare in the Qatari capital in November 2001 but remains deadlocked as developed and developing countries haggle over concessions on issues such as agricultural subsidies and tariffs on industrial goods.