Trading Up Through Multilateralism

A Good Doha Round Can Lift All Boats

Oxfam's new report mostly matches arguments by CAP’s Daniel Tarullo that the Doha Round would foster mutually beneficial global trade.

The wealthy nations of the world are keen to negotiate bilateral or regional trade deals with developing nations because the rich countries almost always have the upper hand in these negotiations, argues Oxfam International in a newly released report as representatives from 33 developing nations gather in Jakarta to discuss the multilateral Doha Round of trade negotiations now under way under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.

Neither the humanitarian relief groups that comprise Oxfam International nor representatives from these developing nations are keen to see the Doha Round concluded without additional concessions on various trade fronts important to the developing world. Yet both sets of players recognize that a multilateral trade deal under a WTO framework is better for them than separate bilateral or regional trade pacts.

The potential boost to development aims from multilateral negotiations is also emphasized by Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Daniel Tarullo. In a report released earlier this year titled The Case for Reviving the Doha Trade Round, he urged the United States to get back to the basics on trade by supporting the Doha Round. The Bush administration’s various bilateral trade deals have led to an unproductive, polarized debate over trade that has the U.S. stuck arguing over trade agreements in general rather than the merits of certain trade deals in particular, argues Tarullo.

He contends that the Doha Round is consistent with key national economic and security issues, and should therefore command widespread popular support. And, because the Doha round focuses mainly on tariffs and trade-distorting subsidies, the Bush Administration could sidestep many of the controversial domestic economic and regulatory policies that have plagued most recent trade negotiations.

What’s more, Tarullo notes that the Doha Round’s focus on agriculture makes it a prime opportunity to boost U.S. and global farm economies as well as the environment—a key consideration in the developing world. The U.S. can negotiate increased international market access for U.S. farmers in return for limits on our agricultural subsidy programs that are needed for purely domestic reasons.

The resulting market boost for developing countries would serve U.S. political and security interests in avoiding failed states, humanitarian interests in combating poverty around the globe, and commercial interests in a stable and growing world economy. The U.S., working with the European Union and other developed nations, can create a multilateral trade agreement that advances global economic and development aims and boosts U.S. economic leadership more generally.

American leadership is vital in a period where the rules of the global economy will be changing. With only three months to go before the Doha Round the president has yet to become personally involved in an effort to push negotiations to a successful conclusion that will expand trade opportunities for the world’s poorest countries. Without this involvement, the Round will all but collapse and the world will note another failure of U.S. leadership.

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