Tough Talks

Gatherings of world trade officials tend to be messy affairs. They are huge. Months before they take place, they are invariably described as "make-or-break," or with some other breathless phrase, and are accompanied by much public posturing. If they don't collapse in mutual recrimination—as did recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Seattle and Cancún—most of the action takes place in a mad flurry during the last few hours, when previously unshakable national positions suddenly melt away in compromise. Then comes the spin. "Trade negotiators are famous for saying that the agreement they've just struck is not a good one," says...

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