Doha: Dead As The Dodo
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  • Luke Lea

    There is something ritualistic about these Green summits. Nobody expects them to succeed anymore, but nobody wants to admit it. They remind me of the Ghost Dances performed by 19th century Indian tribes out West.

  • teapartydoc

    The breakdowns have usually been over the subsidies that developed nations provide for their respective agricultural sectors at the expense of developing nations that see agricultural exports as a necessary rung on the ladder to development. When the chattering classes prattle on endlessly about the need for the developed world to do something for the less developed one, they hypocritically leave this third rail untouched, preferring to make direct payments to those countries, which they, in their deadly evil hearts, know will serve only to further corrupt and impoverish those countries. This kind of political correctness nauseates me.

  • As good an idea as free trade is, it will only appeal to those who don’t hope to use trade as a weapon or enrich themselves at other nations’ expense. But we are currently in a beggar-thy-neighbor era in international politics. I can’t think of a polity that doesn’t currently hope to import more than it exports and pay its bills in a steadily depreciating currency.

  • Kirk Parker

    We can’t live without them, but we can’t count on them to do much.

    Clearly, those two statements are contradictory.

  • koblog

    “Whether it is the UN, the WTO, the IMF, NATO or even the EU, international institutions are cumbersome and weak. We can’t live without them—”

    I strongly disagree. We can live very well without these unelected wanna-be world government bureaucracies.

    In your own words they are zombies, enacting never-dying pacts that don’t work.

    Every nation on earth has a State Department. Let each nation — and especially our nation –negotiate each treaty and pact separately, then have them debated and approved by our duly elected representatives.

    Then again, the goal is precisely opposite that. OneWorld is the goal, no matter how inneffective or unconstitutional.

  • Drew Kelley

    Once more, the elites wave of “comprehensive” reform breaks upon a rocky shore of individual preferences and provincial concerns.
    If they could priortize, they could possibly accomplish one or two items that need to be done; but the lack of that ability forces them to attempt to reform everything, insuring that nothing does get reformed.
    But, Hey!, they tried, and feeling good about the attempt to do good is what it is all about – plus, getting to congregate at 5-star resorts every few years on someone else’s dime.

  • Kirk Parker

    We can’t live without them, but we can’t count on them to do much.

    Those statements seem contradictory.

    In a time of required austerity, when our intertwined crises are about legitimacy as much as they are about economics, aren’t these entities that don’t do much precisely the ones we can in fact live without?

    What’s so bad with bilateral/several-lateral agreements? What’s so bad about “ad hoc coalitions of the willing”? I see a lot more of them in our future than I do the grandiose global pretenders-at-governance.

  • “Taken together with the chaos and dysfunction in the European Union, the less dramatic but equally deep breakdown of the Doha Round also points to the limits of transnational governance. Nation states have their problems and limits, but international institutions are even more severely limited. Whether it is the UN, the WTO, the IMF, NATO or even the EU, international institutions are cumbersome and weak. We can’t live without them, but we can’t count on them to do much.”

    AMEN. As I see it, these days it’s hard enough for nations and states to agree WITHIN themselves, even on matters that may bear directly or indirectly on their survival. And all the more so given our present climate of (what seems to me) fashionable “elite” contempt for the nation-state. How much harder is it, then, to knock together very different heads and cultures under the same global umbrella, and on behalf of the same global agenda? And partic. when it comes to nations divided by – what shall we call them? – realms of serious moral and social incompatibility (no matter how much they may lust for each other’s money and trade).

    Shared strategic and security interests are important – though I suspect often devilishly hard to measure. But when it comes to deep, long-term economic, cultural and military exchange and collaboration between countries, personally I can see no substitute for what we commonly call unity of mind and heart – e.g., shared or overlapping histories and languages, common philosophical and political traditions (and partic. a shared understanding of the unquantifiable, irreplaceable worth and dignity of every individual human being), and a common view of the humane means and ends of economics and technology. These are areas of agreement in which Western nations will always find more in common with each other, or with countries of Western colonial heritage, than with non-Western countries having little or no experience of colonization (did somebody say Saudi Arabia? Iran? China?).

    And as if THAT weren’t complicated enough: Nowadays we’re graced with all sorts of globe-sweeping organizations that, without necessarily meaning to, can easily run roughshod over local, regional and national areas and concerns. I don’t mean just for-profit corporations, but NGOs of every kind: global humanitarian advocacy and relief agencies, environmental, religious and ethnic lobbies, “freedom-fighting” (AKA terror) syndicates and franchises, human traffickers – the list seems endless. These are exactly the sort of agents who can interweave and enmesh (or unmesh) the economies of very different populations in ways that are hasty, arrogant, presumptuous. Ways that many people on the ground find hard to sustain (or just plain unbearable). Note that when economies are locked together in these premature or unhealthy ways, the result is seldom any growth in healthy, mature understanding and appreciation between the peoples involved (vd. Britain and Iran in the 1950s – or even the US and Cuba in the 1950s). Rather if anything the reverse. And so it’s not surprising that great masses of people on either side often react prematurely, and panic, and decide the ONLY way to extricate themselves, or to readjust ties to their own (one-sided) satisfaction, is by means of trade war, or revolution. Or even military invasion. In a nutshell (as I believe this post is arguing with considerable wit and imagination): Put a bunch of SERIOUSLY incompatible people under the same tent, give them a single hard-and-fast agenda on which none of them can agree (with the exception of some or all of the global actors above-mentioned), and sit and watch the tent fold.

    “If the nations of the world can’t agree on a complex, universal trade package aimed at accelerating growth and raising incomes, how likely are they to agree on an even more complex and difficult agreement that will slow growth down and distribute losses rather than allocate gains?”

    I can’t imagine a better question with which to end a superb essay.

  • “Kennedy administration”? GATT, the larval form of the WTO, was signed in 1947 and was replaced by the WTO in 1995. There was a “Kennedy round” that started during the Johnson administration, but it was only one of many rounds starting with Geneva and continuing through today’s Doha round.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I am a firm believer in the bilateral trade agreements like the recent passage of the Columbia, Panama, and South Korea free trade agreements, as a method to keep kicking the door to free trade further and further open. Constituencies making money from the trade agreements will develop, and both nations will be seen to benefit leading to more agreements and more trade. The WTO as the enforcer of the present agreement should be maintained, but clearly this should be the last round as it has become a waste of time, and it is causing some damage to existing relationships.
    With the economic stresses of Great Depression 2.0 upon us, protectionism is the danger now, and the world needs to be fighting a defensive action to preserve the gains in trade we have already made.

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