Love it or hate it, globalization has made the world more prosperous. But free-trade advocates could face a setback later this year, because the 150 countries that make up the World Trade Organization (WTO) can't agree on how to take things to the next level. Since 2001, the wto has been holding complex negotiations in an attempt to reduce existing barriers to trade in agriculture, services and manufacturing. But the so-called Doha Round has foundered because of squabbling between developing nations and the world's economic powers: the U.S., the E.U. and Japan.
All is not lost. Pascal Lamy, WTO director general, said Feb. 7 that "political conditions are now more favorable for the conclusion of the [Doha] Round than they have been for a long time." But the clock is ticking. On July 1, the "fast track" authority that was granted to President George W. Bush to approve trade pacts expires. After that, Congress will be able to tinker with and amend any wto deal. The prospect of protectionist-minded American politicians jumping into proceedings will probably force many countries participating in the talks to call it a day, and the Doha Round will finally be pronounced DOA.
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