SCDigest Editorial Staff
It’s been in the works for some seven years – and despite all those efforts, the World Trade Organization’s massive effort to get more than 150 nations to lower tariffs and other trade barriers collapsed last week at a meeting in Geneva.
Called the Doha Round, the effort was originally designed to encourage economic growth in developing nations, adding a moral element to the economic ones regarding free trade. But over the many years of negotiations, that original purpose was largely forgotten, and the issues became increasingly parochial. Multiply that by trying to get the agreement signed off by 153 countries, and it became an almost impossible task.
"There's no use beating around the bush; this meeting has collapsed," World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy said last week after nine days of last-ditch negotiations in Geneva.
As usual, agricultural issues were at the forefront. Many developing nations balked at the call for lower tariffs for food imports, and also wanted to be able to raise those duties if imports started to surge or local farmers needed protection, which large agricultural exporters found unacceptable.
"The U.S. is looking at enhancing its commercial interests, whereas I am looking at protecting the livelihood of farmers," said India’s commerce minister Kamal Nath.
With economic woes and inflation, especially in food products, affecting much of the globe, nationalism and protectionist leanings are at their highest level in years, making a Doha agreement even more challenging. Indeed, European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said earlier this year that Doha would be "one in the eye for protectionists, one up for trade, one up for trade-led development, one up for multilateralism."
(Global Supply Chain and Logistics Article - Continued Below)