Froman: Time has run out for Doha trade talks

The nation’s top trade official said Monday that time has run out for completing the Doha round of talks.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman wrote in the Financial Times that new trade talks need to start at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that address changes on the global trading landscape since those negotiations started in 2001. 

“If global trade is to drive development and prosperity as strongly this century as it did in the last, we need to write a new chapter for the World Trade Organization that reflects today’s economic realities,” Froman said.  

{mosads}”It is time for the world to free itself of the strictures of Doha,” he said. 

Froman said that the WTO ministerial conference this week in Nairobi will mark the end of an era.

“After 14 years, including the past two years of intensified engagement, there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

During the Nairobi talks, Froman said the United States would work “to secure a package of measured but meaningful results, but what cannot be achieved in Nairobi will not be achieved by trying again with the same failed approach.”

“Pretending otherwise would intensify the search for solutions outside the WTO, raising questions about its relevance in trade negotiations,” Froman said.

He noted that Cecilia Malmström, the European Union’s trade commissioner, and many others have called for taking a more productive path.

Many developing countries are calling for new discussions on e-commerce and the needs of small businesses, Froman said. 

Despite the lack of progress on Doha, Froman said that other efforts on trade “have raced ahead.”

He cited completion of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and continued talks between the U.S. and the European Union.

“Trade initiatives outside the WTO have become the norm, with hundreds of agreements signed by scores of countries since Doha was launched,” he wrote.

But he said there is still plenty the WTO can accomplish.

Ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, an expansion of the Information Technology Agreement and progress on an agreement that would that would open up trade of environmental goods are all on the WTO agenda, Froman said. 

“So, two-way deals are working. Regional pacts are working. Groups of countries have struck sectoral deals,” Froman said.  

“Only multilateralism — the attempt to reach a comprehensive global deal — is stuck,” he said.

“Getting it unstuck begins with acknowledging that Doha was designed in a different era, for a different era, and much has changed since.”

Froman argued trade policy has an outside role to play in spurring growth even amid uneven global economic conditions.

“Multilateralism still promises the greatest economic gains in theory,” he said. “To realize those gains in practice, we need the courage to look, think and act beyond Doha.”

Tags Doha Development Round International trade Michael Froman Ministerial Conference Office of the United States Trade Representative Trans-Pacific Partnership World Trade Organization

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