Demise of Doha trade talks By Larry Elliott - Tuesday 26th April 2011

THE scene: the green room in William Rappard House, a palatial if sombre residence looking down over greensward to the shores of Lac Leman in the suburbs of Geneva.
On the table lies the corpse of Doha, not yet 10, who has spent most of her troubled life in and out of care. The prime suspects are there too: an American, an Indian, the man from Brussels, the Brazilian and the ambassador from the China. All have alibis; all swear that they were devoted to Doha and never wished her any harm. But all of them have a motive and it is clear nobody outside the room committed the murder.
Our Hercule Poirot in this tale is Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, the body responsible for policing international trade. Lamy is a marathon-running French intellectual rather than a Belgian who suffers with his stomach, but you can’t have everything. The question on everybody’s lips is: who killed Doha?
As in the best mysteries, there are plenty of twists in the plot. For one thing, Doha might not actually be dead. Indeed, there have been plenty of times when she has made a miraculous recovery after apparently giving up the ghost.
Lamy, who has nurtured Doha with tenderness through the most difficult phases of her life, is even now unwilling to say that all hope is lost. Exasperated by the wilful neglect shown towards his ward, Lamy said last week that there was now a “serious risk” of Doha breathing her last. He pleaded with WTO members to think about all they had achieved with Doha over the past 10 years and begged them not to throw it all away.
Others think Lamy is far too optimistic in his diagnosis. The Europeans are already talking openly about a plan B. The South
Africans think it is all over bar the shouting. And, as things stand, that looks like the more realistic view.
To unravel the mystery of Doha, potential sleuths need a bit of background. It all started in November 2001, in the Gulf state of Qatar. Two months after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the birth of the Doha development round was supposed to symbolise a mood of global solidarity.
The object of the meeting was to give birth to a new round of trade liberalisation talks, the first in almost a decade and by far the most ambitious of the nine sets of post-war negotiations dedicated to removing protectionist barriers. It was held in Doha because Qatar was one of the few WTO members willing to host it following the anti-globalisation protests of the previous two years. And it was called a development round in an attempt to persuade sceptical low-income countries that this would not be the traditional carve-up between the European Union and the US.
From the start, though, there were problems. Before Doha was two years old, talks broke down in Cancun, when a group of the leading developing countries — China, India and Brazil — made it clear they had very different views from Washington and Brussels on how the infant should be brought up.
The tension has persisted since Cancun, although the dynamics of the negotiations have subtly changed as the emerging economies have become a more potent force. China was admitted to the WTO just before Doha was born. It is not just the Europeans and the Americans who are reluctant about giving too much away to Beijing: some of the leading developing nations, such as Brazil, are also exhibiting nervousness. The poorest developing countries, needless to say, feel entirely excluded from the process.
Unless something unexpected happens this week, Doha is dead. And they all did it. — The Guardian, London

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