It’s looking increasingly likely that the WTO will meet in a couple of weeks time for its ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar. Before 11 September, there were doubts that Qatar would take place thanks to the increasing volume of the anti-globalisation movement, the lack of progress on preparation for a new trade round and significant disagreements between developing and developed nations about the need for a new round.
But September 11 provided new impetus for progress on trade. As a good analysis in today’s Financial Times notes, “Right now� launching [a new trade round] is increasingly considered essential for symbolic and psychological reasons as much as for economic ones. Doing so would send a powerful political signal of countries’ determination to make common cause in the face of adversity.” This has overcome the new perceived problem of Qatar: a lot of trade officials and businesses are nervous about a high-profile meeting in the Gulf right now.
It’s both important and encouraging that the Doha meeting will take place. The pre-meeting rhetoric makes it seem as though a new trade round is a distant prospect. But I hope that’s skirmishing for local favours, before the real work begins in Doha.
The other day, I decried the lack of a latter day Wallace Stevens in an executive suite. I should have looked on my own bookshelves. An extraordinary multivolume history of the Hundred Years War (three volumes and counting) is by Jonathan Sumption. UK papers have detailed reports on an important trial on fund management practices (Unilever has sued Merrill Lynch). Lead barrister for the plaintiffs? The very same Jonathan Sumption. I’ll hazard a guess, however, that he doesn’t write 700-page history books in the back of a limousine.