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Doha and the future of free trade
Are collapsed free trade talks a setback, or the end of an era?
 

The demise of the “Doha round” of global trade talks is “another blow to the struggling world economy,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The talks sought to lower tariffs in both developing and developed nations, bringing more trade and prosperity to all. This is the first big failure of “the post-World War II free-trade era,” and the “crucial question” is whether this is just a setback or the end of that era.

Let’s hope the free-trade craze is over, said Robert Weissman in The Huffington Post. The “cheerleaders for corporate globalization” have oversold the benefits of trade, and the “purported beneficiaries”—poor countries and their farmers—actually stood to gain little or even lose a lot from the Doha pact.

There will always be arguing over free trade pacts, said Ronald Bailey in Reason’s Hit & Run blog, as they "always turn on figuring out how to bribe producers who hate competition into allowing consumers to have access to a wider and cheaper array of goods and services.” In this case, “the idiotic farm policies of both rich and poor countries” won the day, and humanity lost.

Not to worry, Doha fans, said Raj Patel in Britain’s The Guardian. “Trade talks are diplomacy’s most rugged zombies, able to rise despite a thousand deaths,” and these talks will probably resume next year. Poor farmers will be as bad off as always, but the “slim victory” of Doha’s postponement is that things won’t get worse.

No, Doha’s dead, said Paul Maidment in Forbes.com. But it dealt mostly with the “pressing trade issues” of 2001, barely touching on “environmental sustainability, climate change, and carbon trading.” So instead of mourning, let’s “give Doha a decent burial. Then wipe the slate clean and start again.”

 

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