Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Death of Doha

The question is, where do we go from here?

Some have suggested that the obvious alternative is bilateral free trade agreements with more nations (even though Congress seems to be putting up stiff resistance to any new deals).

The problem is that this is a bad solution to the problem of global trade reform AND globalization in general.

First, global trade reform. The idea that bilateral trade agreements by the United States are a prescription for global growth problems is a flawed one, because it ignores a lot of the actual and potential trade that plays a big factor in making us all wealthier. The presence of trade barriers between nations in the Third World means that those nations aren't going to be able to realize their full growth potential. The same problem will exist as long as trade barriers exist between Europe and Africa, Russia and China, or any other two individual nations in the world. Eventually, this negative wealth effect acts on us in a perverse trickle down mechanism, sapping our economic potential as well.

Worldwide agreements and organizations like the WTO lower trade barriers globally: it's why the trade talks are so important.

Another important factor: globalized trade talks allows smaller nations to pool their collective demands, much in the same way that unions allow workers to pool their bargaining power. Bilateral agreements allow larger nations to exploit their advantages over poorer nations: it's not surprise, then, that poorer nations aren't so happy about the Doha Round failing.

The effects of trade barriers between other nations and the exploitation of superior bargaining power becomes a LOT more important when you consider the fact that the fastest growing economies are developing ones, and not developed ones.

Holding down the growth of the developing world matters. A lot.

Second, globalization encompasses more issues than simple trade. Also included are questions regarding technological implantation, like what standards we should use on the Internet and how to apply child pornography laws. It includes pollution, global financing laws, and weaponization of space as well. Another overlooked issue of globalization? Flows of labor, which presently don't have much of any global regulation whatsoever.

Doha, of course, didn't really address any of these issues. However, what Doha represents is a failure of nations to work together, even when their interests should be, theoretically, mostly aligned (everyone gains from free trade). Such hard-headedness signals bad times for the coming century on the many issues that affect everyone on this planet.

No comments: