Salvaging WTO

NOW that the main players appear to have recovered from the shock of the WTO talks disaster, the blame game has begun in all earnestness. The European Union has squarely blamed the US ‘intransigence’ on farm subsidies for the failure of the crucial trade talks last week.

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Published: Tue 1 Aug 2006, 9:28 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:57 PM

The developing countries, on the other hand, believe that the responsibility for failing to agree on a global trade pact extends to the whole of industrialised world. But is there any point in going on pointing fingers at each other even as all parties seem to realise and acknowledge the significance of what is at stake? Now even the US and Brazil, two of the key players in collapsed talks, are talking of a possible agreement in the coming month. Which is a positive development.

There is a great deal more at stake than mere farm subsidies or preferential trade issues. At stake is the very concept of free trade or leissez faire, which has been at the centre of the phenomenal economic transformation of our world in the past two centuries. It’s free trade that made Europe and America what they are today. And it’s trade that is already building the Middle Eastern economies and China and India today.

The Middle East —especially GCC states —has been the engine of the world economy with its energy resources. From America to Europe to Japan and China, it is the Arab oil that fuels and fires global economic growth.

Unfortunately, however, the Arab world has largely remained marginalised on the global economic stage. The oil producing Arab countries are yet to get their fair share of global economic pie in accordance with their seminal contribution. This has to change and can change with a just and balanced global trade agreement. Ditto Africa.

The continent’s rich resources have immensely contributed to global economic growth. It may be time to reciprocate. A global trade pact —not Western aid —could address Africa’s many woes.

By the same logic, a raft of trade issues that currently strain the bilateral relations between big players such as America, EU, Japan, China and others can be more reasonably and cordially resolved.

With so much at stake, it is in no one’s interest —least of all that of the protagonists —to drag feet on this issue and delay the proposed trade pact. Especially when it could be a win-win deal for all parties concerned.

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