Monday, July 31, 2006

Get this straight about Doha trade talks.

Bidness: You need to work from these basic facts. No developed country in no way will sign a deal to undercut its own industries to help out some poor country in Africa or South America. No poor country is going to get market access to America or the EU unless it gives up something big in return. Why this comes as a shock to people like Larry Elliott of the Guardian annoys me.

The myths about the Doha Development Round are legion. One is glaringly obvious - that it has anything to do with development. The rich countries paid lip service to this idea in order to get the talks started back in 2001, then settled down to business as usual. That means cutting the best possible deal for themselves. Any last hope that Doha would right wrongs from previous trade rounds or give a kick-start to the economies of the world's poorest countries was snuffed out at the Hong Kong ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation last December. Despite all the talk about allowing products from developing countries into their markets, the European Union, the United States and Japan made it clear that some products were so sensitive that they had to remain off limits. The message to poor nations was that if they started to produce nuclear submarines, lasers or state-of-the-art robots then there would be no barriers to entry into the rich markets of the world. In the meantime, though, there was a bit of a problem with cotton, sugar and rice.

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