Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dropping the Bomb on Doha

Well – US Trade Representative Ron Kirk this morning dropped the bomb on the decade-old Doha Development Agenda trade negotiations in front of 21 liberal-leaning trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries.

In a highly "diplomatic" and meandering statement to ministers – delivered privately but later released to the public – the USTR suggested that there are several routes to deal with the Doha negotiations, but indicated that the United States would only follow one. It will get what it can in modest achievements from the talks in Geneva and then move quickly to something that has real prospects for success – such as the nine-nation TransPacific Partnership negotiations.

High-level US officials here told WTD at a ski resort in Big Sky, Montana, that there is unspoken support for the US stance on Doha from 20 other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministers who are all anxious to move ahead with TPP.

When the Uruguay Round was in similar doldrums during the first Bush Administration, then US Trade Representative Carla Hills turned full-hearted toward negotiation of a US-Canada-Mexico North American Free Trade Agreement. Fears that the United States would abandon the multilateral approach and move along bilateral and regional routes to freeing up trade were deep enough to re-spark those negotiations in 1992.

Things are a bit different now, but the strategy could amount to the same.

Doha lives?

Jim Berger

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