I am copying here Martin Wolf's comments on the Doha Round, as expressed on the CUTS-tradeforum. I find them remarkable because Martin simultaneously explodes three myths about the trade regime. First, he dismisses the "bicycle theory" of trade negotiations, which says that the trade regime will fall back into protectionism unless you keep liberalizing it. Second, he states that the fundamental motives behind Doha were political rather than economic. And third, he argues that Doha is doing more damage than good to the multilateral trade regime.
Doha was essentially a political response to 9/11. I supported it then because it indicated the global will to co-operate and sustain globalisation. Its chance of completion was in the first few years. Once the political reasons weakened, as they did, after Iraq and then the obvious fact that globalisation was ongoing, the will to complete this round disappeared. Today, no top-level politician would now use his or her desperately limited political capital to complete this round, which they see (rightly) as a low-level priority. After all, are we really living in an era of collapsing trade? Is protectionism rampant? Given the shocks of the last few years, it is almost astonishingly absent.
Then people will say that the WTO will collapse if we don't keep on doing rounds. I think that's absurd. Do we think the legal system will collapse if we don't go on writing more laws? At some point, we were bound to get to the point when a round failed. At some point, we would have to declare an end to rounds. Before 9/11, I thought we were already there. After 9/11, I thought it made sense to have one more go. I was wrong. Doha is weakening the WTO, not strengthening it.
So what now? Make the WTO work in a world without rounds, that's what. Move on. This is over.
Martin Wolf is right on all counts. And it is truly refreshing to see an economist openly admit to having been wrong.
For my own views on how Doha was misconceived and got off to a wrong start, see this Foreign Affairs piece.
UPDATE: Arvind Subramanian reminds me, correctly, that along with Aaditya Mattoo he has long been pointing to the inadequacies and irrelevance of the Doha agenda and the public denial on this since 2007. See this, this, and this.
UPDATE: And here is some prescient analysis also from Tom Palley.