Doha Unfinished

Jan. 14, 2005
World trade talks miss one deadline and may not be complete in 2005. Is a manufacturing free-trade agreement an alternative?

Three years after it was launched in Doha, Qatar, 15 months after being all but scuttled at a divisive meeting in Cancun, Mexico, and five months after the 147 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to give it another try, the latest round of world trade negotiations remains far from finished. A great deal is at stake for American business -- especially manufacturers. U.S. firms exported $597.6 billion worth of goods to the rest of the world during the first nine months of 2004. And imports of goods -- including $139.9 billion from China alone -- totaled $1.0793 trillion, according to U.S. Commerce Department figures.

But with only a month left in 2004, it looked as if WTO negotiators would miss their original Jan. 1, 2005, deadline for completing a comprehensive agreement covering manufactured goods, services and agriculture. And it's unlikely they will achieve an accord during the next year, suggested Thomas J. Duesterberg, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, an Arlington, Va.-based business and public policy group. "You have a new [trade negotiating] team in Europe. I don't know if you're going to have a new team on the U.S. side. But the issues are pretty hard to bridge in any case, and given the political dynamics, I just don't think it's going to happen in the next year."

In the meantime, Duesterberg expects a second-term Bush administration to be "more of a proponent of free trade than even the first Bush administration -- certainly [more than] a Kerry administration" would have been. However, he believes there'll "probably" be more action on regional trade pacts than on multilateral agreements like Doha. For example, says Duesterberg, "I think we could see the CAFTA ratified," referring to the pending Central American Free Trade Agreement among the U.S. and Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. And he suggests South Korea could begin bilateral negotiations for a free-trade agreement with the U.S., a pact that "conceivably" Japan could join. (In mid-November, the White House trade office announced the administration would begin bilateral free-trade negotiations with the Middle East nations of Oman and the United Arab Emirates.)

Could the U.S. and other WTO members agree on an alternative if they do come up short on the comprehensive Doha pact? "Maybe" there could be a free-trade agreement for just manufacturing, says Duesterberg. "But I'm not quite sure how to handicap that. I guess I'd see more progress on the regional and bilateral front."

Nevertheless, two templates for an agreement limited to manufacturing, which accounts for nearly 60% of world trade, do exist. One is a three-step U.S. proposal to eliminate tariffs on all consumer and industrial products by 2015. The other is the manufacturing portion of this past July's agreement among WTO members to get the Doha Round back on track. It calls for increased market access for such products as cars, computers and consumer goods as well as for broad cuts in tariffs by a formula that would cut higher tariffs faster than others.

U.S. international trade (billions of $) Jan.-Sept. 2004
Imports Exports Surplus (+) or Deficit (-)
Goods 1,079.3 597.6 -481.7
Services 215.7 252.8 +37.1
Total 1,295 850.4 -444.6
About the Author

John McClenahen | Former Senior Editor, IndustryWeek

 John S. McClenahen, is an occasional essayist on the Web site of IndustryWeek, the executive management publication from which he retired in 2006. He began his journalism career as a broadcast journalist at Westinghouse Broadcasting’s KYW in Cleveland, Ohio. In May 1967, he joined Penton Media Inc. in Cleveland and in September 1967 was transferred to Washington, DC, the base from which for nearly 40 years he wrote primarily about national and international economics and politics, and corporate social responsibility.
      McClenahen, a native of Ohio now residing in Maryland, is an award-winning writer and photographer. He is the author of three books of poetry, most recently An Unexpected Poet (2013), and several books of photographs, including Black, White, and Shades of Grey (2014). He also is the author of a children’s book, Henry at His Beach (2014).
      His photograph “Provincetown: Fog Rising 2004” was selected for the Smithsonian Institution’s 2011 juried exhibition Artists at Work and displayed in the S. Dillon Ripley Center at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., from June until October 2011. Five of his photographs are in the collection of St. Lawrence University and displayed on campus in Canton, New York.
      John McClenahen’s essay “Incorporating America: Whitman in Context” was designated one of the five best works published in The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies during the twelve-year editorship of R. Barry Leavis of Rollins College. John McClenahen’s several journalism prizes include the coveted Jesse H. Neal Award. He also is the author of the commemorative poem “Upon 50 Years,” celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Wolfson College Cambridge, and appearing in “The Wolfson Review.”
      John McClenahen received a B.A. (English with a minor in government) from St. Lawrence University, an M.A., (English) from Western Reserve University, and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University, where he also pursued doctoral studies. At St. Lawrence University, he was elected to academic honor societies in English and government and to Omicron Delta Kappa, the University’s highest undergraduate honor. John McClenahen was a participant in the 32nd Annual Wharton Seminars for Journalists at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. During the Easter Term of the 1986 academic year, John McClenahen was the first American to hold a prestigious Press Fellowship at Wolfson College, Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.
      John McClenahen has served on the Editorial Board of Confluence: The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies and was co-founder and first editor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown. He has been a volunteer researcher on the William Steinway Diary Project at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and has been an assistant professorial lecturer at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.


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