Paul Blustein on Last Year's Doha Debacle

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 1/04/2009 08:35:00 AM
Readers of a blog on IPE should be familiar with Paul Blustein, longtime financial reporter for the Washington Post and author of The Chastening on the repercussions of the Asian financial crisis as well as And the Money Kept Rolling In on Argentina's subsequent economic misadventures. Both books are of course highly recommended; I particularly remember the former's cover depicting a dunce cap whose implied wearer was the (chastened) IMF.

Anyway, I was surfing the Net when I was led to the Brookings Institution site for one reason or another. There I came across some more top-class reportage from Blustein on the "so close yet so far" Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations of July 2008. Blustein also discusses the relationship of this failure to more recent events like the November G-20 meeting. Like many, he saw the negotiations more as an opportunity to consolidate gains than to make new ones in a "let's make sure the global crisis doesn't reencourage protectionism" sense. There are also interesting nuggets like US Trade Representative Susan Schwab hurling the F-bomb at WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy [!] Here is a teaser from the Brookings report:
By turning down the deal that was under consideration in July, WTO members passed up the opportunity for a meaningful insurance policy against protectionism. The package of measures, though hardly the bonanza for global growth that its boosters often claimed, could have prevented countries from erecting significantly higher tariffs. Meanwhile, the precipitous change in the economic climate has dimmed prospects for a Doha accord anytime soon, because as economies slump, political resistance will stiffen against the dismantling of trade barriers and subsidies. For the long-run health of the multilateral trading system, the ultimate safekeeper of open world markets, the implications are ominous.

This article provides an in-depth account of the July meeting, based on interviews with top-ranking participants from major countries, WTO officials, and other attendees, a number of whom furnished extensive notes that they took of the most important sessions. It is a tale that shows multilateralism both at its most high-minded and at its most dysfunctional—the low points including a tantrum by Japan’s trade minister and an F-word-laden outburst aimed at Lamy by Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative. More importantly, it sheds new light on what went wrong in Geneva—and how far wrong things went.
Needless to say, it's required reading for trade buffs and credit crisis followers.