Free trade impasse at WTO

Steve Tripoli Jun 29, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The 5-year-old round of global trade talks known as the Doha Round resumes in Geneva today. The talks have stalled for two years over a kind of “you go first, no, you go first” game between rich and poorer countries. All sides supposedly would gain from new trade liberalization. But no one wants to be the first to make a concession. Marketplace’s Steve Tripoli has that story.

STEVE TRIPOLI: The main feuding triangle here features the US, the European Union and wealthier developing countries known as “The Group of 20.” Some are being asked to cut subsidies to domestic producers. Others are under pressure to drop tariffs on incoming goods.

Trade expert Ann Tutwiler of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation isn’t picking sides on who should blink first.

ANN TUTWILER:“I think it’s everybody.”

The whole purpose of these talks was to improve the poorest countries’ economies. Tutwiler says rich countries have plenty to gain from that in expanded markets.

But farmers and industries that gain from protectionist policies are holding up a deal. Tutwiler says folks who’d win from freer trade aren’t as good at making noise.

TUTWILER:“They would see lower prices for their food, they would see lower prices for their clothing, but they can’t measure that yet. So it’s very hard to mobilize them in support of these kinds of changes.”

Opinions about whether there’ll be a breakthrough or a final breakdown in this round of talks are all over the map.

I’m Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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