President Bush subsumed much of his domestic-policy agenda in recent months to the project of renewing the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round.
The lame-duck president wanted to make one final contribution to the coffers of the multinational corporations that have always been his primary constituency.
But it didn’t work.
The movements that first flexed their muscles on the streets of Seattle in 1999 have trumped the most powerful man in the world once more. The WTO’s “mini-ministerial” in Geneva failed to reach the agreements that were necessary to begin a process that might have led to another radical rewrite of trade rules favoring the multinationals.
The Financial Times reports that, “The ‘Doha round’ of global trade talks lapsed back into limbo on Tuesday as a ministerial meeting to rescue the round collapsed after nine days of tense negotiations.”
A European Union official said of the talks: “It’s clearly not a success. But no one will want to say that it’s the end of the round.”
In other words, the Doha Round has again collapsed.
And with it has collapsed any prospect that Bush will be able to further define globalization downward into that race to the bottom that enriches investors but impoverishes workers, farmers, communities and sometimes whole countries.
That was bad news for Bush — and for those American political and economic insiders, including his predecessor Bill Clinton, who had long been more invested in advancing the WTO’s corporate model than approaches that might favor workers and farmers.
But critics of the administration’s free-trade agenda were celebrating.
“Thank God no deal was reached, because the proposal under consideration would have exacerbated the serious economic, food security and social problems now rocking numerous countries,” declared Lori Wallach, director Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
“The moldering corpse of the Doha WTO-expansion Round should have been buried years ago. Hopefully after this latest rejection of the Doha agenda, countries will move on to a new agenda focused on fixing the existing WTO rules.”
Wallach is looking beyond Bush.
“Now that WTO expansion has been again rejected at this ‘make or break’ meeting,” she said, “elected officials and those on the campaign trail in nations around the world – including U.S. presidential candidates – will be asked what they intend to do to replace the failed WTO model and its version of corporate globalization with something that benefits the majority of people worldwide.”