April 23, 2007

US experts call for new trade system (Krishna Guha, April 20 2007, Financial Times)

[The Atlantic Council of the US], which is chaired by two former US commerce undersecretaries, said the struggle to complete the Doha round showed that it was no longer possible to make meaningful progress in a global negotiating system that operated through consensus. It said economies willing to offer large tariff and subsidy cuts need to be able to deal with the “free rider” problem by not extending the same terms to everyone regardless of whether they made equally big concessions – the so-called MFN principle.

A coalition of pro-free trade states should be able to exclude non-participants from taking advantage of tariff cuts in specific product lines, though not from sectoral agreements.

Stuart Eizenstat, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, said this proposal would be compatible with World Trade Organisation rules and the coalition of the willing would agree to use the existing WTO dispute settlement mechanism.

Mr Eizenstat said whether the current Doha trade round yielded an agreement or not, it should be the last of its kind. “The world is moving too fast for this kind of consensus-driven, five, six, seven, eight-year rounds.”

In order to preserve sovereignty, the rulings ought to be merely advisory.


April 16, 2007


November 14, 2006

A Setback for Vietnam Trade Bill (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 11/14/06, NY Times)

In an embarrassing legislative setback for the administration, the House of Representatives defeated a measure late Monday that the president had sought to normalize trade relations with Vietnam, four days before President Bush was scheduled to leave for his first visit to that country. […]

The legislation received a majority vote but fell short of the two-thirds needed for passage under special rules that speeded its consideration in the House. The vote came on the first day of the lame-duck session in which the outgoing House, still controlled by a Republican majority, met to pass crucial bills by the end of this year.

The legislation received 228 votes in favor and 161 against, but it needed 32 more votes to pass on Monday. House Republican leaders said they would bring the legislation back in the next couple of days under normal procedures, which require only a majority, or 218 votes, for passage.

Though perhaps symbolic, the defeat in the House was an embarrassment not only for Mr. Bush but also for the departing Republican leaders, who had earlier in the day expressed confidence that they had the two-thirds needed for the bill to pass in the House.


May 15, 2006

Emerging Nations Powering Global Economic Boom: The expansion is the strongest since the 1970s, with China, India and Russia setting the pace. But many U.S. workers are left behind. (Tom Petruno, May 14, 2006, Los Angeles Times)

The global economy is on a growth streak that is shaping up to be the broadest and strongest expansion in more than three decades.

Rising spending and investment by consumers and businesses worldwide are boosting national economies on every continent, pushing down unemployment rates in many countries and lifting business earnings and confidence.

Of 60 nations tracked by investment firm Bridgewater Associates, not one is in recession — the first time that has been true since 1969.

Yet this is a different kind of boom from any other in the post-World War II era, analysts say. The soaring economies of China, India, Russia, Brazil and other emerging nations increasingly are setting the pace, overshadowing the slower growth of the United States, Europe and Japan, where the benefits of the expansion have eluded many workers.

“This is the first recovery where developing economies are playing a dominant role,” said James Paulsen, chief strategist at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis, which manages money for big investors such as pension funds.

The trend is being driven by free trade, which has created millions of jobs in emerging nations in recent years, fueling stunning new wealth in those countries.

This is a story not only at odds with the facts–strong US GDP growth and low unemployment–but with itself–the jobs in those developing countries consist of doing the manufacturing and other work [answering phones] we’re too wealthy to do ourselves. It does though demonstrate just how powerful the End of History remains — forcing capitalism upon such a wide array of nations — even at a time when folks want to dismiss it.


March 14, 2006

U.S., Malaysia to Launch Free-Trade Talks (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, 3/08/06, The Associated Press)

The United States and Malaysia announced Wednesday that they have agreed to begin negotiating a free trade deal to eliminate trade barriers between the two nations.

The decision was announced at a crowded Capitol Hill news conference attended by lawmakers from both political parties, marking an effort by the administration to build bipartisan support for its trade policies at a time when the country is running record trade deficits.

By selecting Malaysia for free trade negotiations, the administration chose a country that is already America’s 10th largest trading partner with $44 billion in two-way trade. The administration announced last month that it planned to launch free trade negotiations with South Korea and free trade talks with Thailand, another economic power in the region, are already under way.

And, luckily, the Right is too stupid to know they’re Muslims.


December 6, 2005

From Seattle to Hong Kong: There have been eight rounds of multilateral trade negotiations prior to Doha. Although they all ended well, it is important to remember that few went smoothly. Negotiators in Hong Kong now face real obstacles, but there is reason for hope — if, that is, they have the will and courage to do what is necessary to succeed. (Jagdish Bhagwati, December 2005, Foreign Affairs)

There were eight successful rounds of multilateral trade negotiations (MTN) under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The first round of talks were held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1947 and the last was launched in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 1986. This last round was concluded in 1994 in Marrakesh, Morocco, and led to the creation of the GATT’s successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Although they might seem like successes in retrospect, it is important to recall that few of these MTNs went smoothly. Moreover, with each successive round, the negotiators’ task has grown more complex, even as their ability to close trade deals has increasingly been impaired by the greater visibility of the process and the growing involvement of a variety of lobbies and stakeholders. The issues have also become more complicated, thanks to the proliferation of non-trade barriers and to sectors such as agriculture that had earlier been shunted aside by waivers. So it is hardly surprising that the Uruguay Round of talks took nearly eight years to complete and suffered midway breakdowns and cascading crises of confidence, whereas the preceding Tokyo Round took five years and the previous rounds took much less. […]

[T]he central breakthrough at Cancún was the emergence of the Group of 20 (G-20), led by Brazil, India, and South Africa. Seen at first as spoilers, these countries had played a negligible role in earlier negotiating rounds. Press coverage of the MTNs tended to focus almost exclusively on the interplay between the European and the American trade representatives, who were treated as the stars of the trade talks with others sidelined to obscurity. At Cancún, however, this dynamic finally changed. Celso Amorim, Brazil’s foreign minister, made a dramatic stand, planting the flag of the developing world on the MTN map and forcing the media to pay attention to its interests. In past years, the Quad — the United States, the EU, Japan, and Canada — had set the terms of the negotiations. After Cancún, however, the agenda was set by a new Group of 5, which included the United States, the EU, Brazil, India, and Australia (as a representative of the Cairns Group of 17 agriculture-exporting countries).

Cancún thus represented a triumph for developing countries, which suddenly gained recognition and a political stake in the negotiations. Indeed, the G-20 even managed to demand successfully that the EU and the United States go back to the drawing board and come back with improved offers on agricultural subsidies and trade barriers. This development augurs well for the future, since effective negotiations can occur only among equals; finally, representatives from Washington and Brussels face opponents their own size (or near to it).

Even the fact that the Cancún talks did not wrap up the Doha Round should not be seen as a failure. After all, at the time of Cancún, the Doha Round was only two years old. Both the Tokyo and Uruguay Rounds had taken much longer to close. Finishing Doha so quickly would have taken a miracle, and miracles do not happen in trade. […]

The most difficult issue is lowering agricultural protections; in recent months, Washington and Brussels have lobbed related offers and counteroffers at each other without much progress. The EU itself is divided between France and its allies, which oppose making any serious concessions, and the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries, which favor accommodation.

The French opposition to the liberalization of agricultural trade rules seems animated by the popular and populist conviction that reducing such barriers would constitute an attack on both French agriculture and French culture.

Just make it a frontal assault on France and cut them out of the trade scheme.


November 16, 2005

‘Manufacturers of Misery’ Oppose Free Trade: By rejecting Washington’s plan for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, according to this editorial from Spain’s El Diario Exterior, ‘the manufacturers of misery, who are stuck in slogans of the 1970s, have dynamited’ what was a chance to ‘replace poverty and under-development with trade and a market economy.’ (November 15, 2005, El Diario Exterior – Original Article (Spanish) (via