Will WTO Stay On Track?

By John S. McClenahen In about a month, the world will know whether or not the World Trade Organization (WTO) is really back on track toward completing the Doha Round of global trade talks. This past weekend, the 147 members of the WTO agreed on a course to further open markets in manufactured goods, agriculture and services, thus reviving negotiations that had collapsed at a trade ministers' meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003. "We have laid out a map for the road ahead," said Robert B. Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative, on Aug. 1, as the agreement was announced at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. "Next, we will negotiate the speed limits for how far and how fast we will lower trade barriers." In manufactured goods, which account for about 60% of all world trade, the emphasis will be on lowering barriers to market access and reducing tariffs. In agriculture, which had been the major stumbling block to renewed negotiations, the emphasis will be eliminating export subsidies and establishing new rules for export credits. And in services the emphasis will be on increasing market access. "We acknowledge that improved market access and rules in agricultural trade are absolutely essential as the first step in moving overall negotiations forward," said Jerry J. Jasinowski, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers, prior to this past weekend's apparent negotiating breakthrough. "But this is not enough in and of itself to provide the boost in global GDP, trade, employment and income growth that true liberalization of industrial-goods trade can deliver," he stressed. The Doha Round recognizes Doha, Qatar, where members of the WTO gave the go-ahead to negotiations in November 2001.

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