Monday, 11 June 2007
World Trade talks; stalled again
World trade talks must be the single most complex negotiation on Earth (apart from evening passes out from mrs slicker). At these almost continuous talks every country has a veto and no agreement can be reached without unanimity. With hundred's of countries participating, all with different needs and issues, it is really amazing that deals ever get done.
In the past few years, the current Doha round has stalled. Strangely, the successful WTO institution that was developed to police world trade and has done so quite fairly, seems to have inhibited talks. Perhaps the US and others are more wary that they cannot ignore past agreements
The reason I wanted to highlight the talks is that the media in general make a pigs ear of the reporting; either by taking a partisan nationalist interest line, spewing idiotic leftist propaganda or focusing on the effects on very tiny and specific parts of the economy.
At this time the negotiations are stalled for 3 big reasons, farm subsidies in Europe and America, lack of copyright in developing nations for 3rd world product and opening developing markets to the burgeoning service and industrial industries of the West.
Of these, the West's total reluctance to reduce farm subsidies - even in these hysterical times of bio-fuels etc, is simply disgraceful. The world is effectively held to ransom by a few US states and the 4% of Europeans who work in the farm sector. The US is actually worse than Europe in this area which may come as a surprise, so their new Trade Representative needs to have some sharp words with GWB - all the US states that benefit are Republican ones though so don't hold your breath.
China, Brazil and India do have work to do though as well, all of them have high tariffs to 'protect' industries from the west. As any good economist will tell you, this is just nonsense and of course their markets would benefit from more competition.
Illegal copyright is a harder one though as it will actually be quite hard to enforce and therefore countries will not want to give hostages to fortune.
This latest round of talks is important though, with a buoyant world economy more tariff reductions will help the to reduce the effects of the next recession. With further delay and a downturn in the world economy, the countries of the world will inevitably slide further towards protectionism.
Finally, reducing first world agricultural subsidies will be a huge boon to some of the world's poorest states; so any anti-globalisation protests against these talks will show the stupidity of those protesting.
Posted by CityUnslicker