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WSJ: Blame Goes Global at WTO

Author: John W. Miller
December 3, 2009

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John W. Miller reports for the Wall Street Journal on the seventh World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Geneva. Miller explains why protectionism and the state of the global economy have made several nations "afraid" of a new international trade deal.

GENEVA -- The European Union, Brazil and other economic powers have blamed the U.S. for gridlock in global-trade talks, but officials at a World Trade Organization summit this week said political fears all over the world are also responsible.

The first meeting in four years of ministers from the WTO's 153 nations concluded Wednesday with no progress in the eight-year-old Doha Round, which has repeatedly failed to achieve its stated mission of opening rich-country markets to imports of food from the developing world.

Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization, arrived Tuesday for a working session at the seventh WTO ministerial meeting in Geneva.

The value of global trade is expected to fall 9% this year, mostly because of the sagging global economy and partly because of growing protectionism, according to the WTO.

In all countries, "people are afraid" of another trade deal, says U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. "Trade has provided a way for people to have fresh produce, cheap T-shirts, available electronics, but the pain of trade is very real."

Voters and politicians in every country are worried about protecting jobs, say trade officials and analysts. Almost no nation has the "political clarity" needed to sign Doha, said a Bolivian delegate.

"The U.S. has been made to be the whipping boy but reservations about liberalization are far more widespread," said Simon Evenett, a professor at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

President Barack Obama still believes the Doha Round can be concluded during his first term, said Mr. Kirk in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "But trade is a contract, it's a deal, and you only have a deal if you get something and I get something."

What is on the table doesn't deliver "meaningful market access in the part of the world that will be growing and driving GDP growth over the next few years," he said, in a reference to countries like China, India and Brazil.

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