The 159 countries in the World Trade Organization are finally ready to ink a major free trade agreement after a week of heated debates between the U.S. and India that nearly derailed the process. The agreement, nicknamed “Doha Lite” by some, is far less sweeping than the original Doha plans, but it’s difficult to overstate its importance as one of the biggest victories in the body’s history. The FT reports:
The Bali deal would mark the first time any components of the long-stalled Doha Round have been completed. As such it would represent a rare win and a badly-needed credibility boost for the multilateral trading system and the WTO. Since its creation in 1995 the Geneva-based body has failed to produce any new agreements, leaving the rules governing global trade badly outdated. [..]“It looks as if tonight we have saved the WTO,” said Karel DeGucht, the European Union’s trade commissioner. “That would be a historic event.”
The Obama administration can take justifiable pride in getting this negotiation to the finish line. Yet there are many factors working in his favor. Over time, the public has gained confidence in free trade—there is more awareness now that free trade makes imports cheaper and gives Americans more choices and better ones when we go to the mall.Free trade is not a panacea for the world’s ills, and the Doha process was flawed in many ways, but hundreds of millions of poor people world wide will have better lives because of the progress we are making toward making free trade a global phenomenon.