It’s been nine long years since negotiations began on the Doha round of the World Trade Organization, and the march of time has trampled many nations’ hopes that a new global trade agreement will ever emerge from the debacle. Some have already given up on the big picture, instead striking regional or bi-lateral agreements with other nations as the need and/or the opportunity arises. So what happened?
Part of the blame lies in the laggard pace of the negotiations, and the sweeping changes that have taken place across the globe during this period. The developed economies have been hobbled by the economic crisis of 2008, while many developing nations in the Third World are leapfrogging forward.
But another reason for the deadlock is that many smaller nations simply don’t view the agreements as holding any benefit for them. Antigua certainly discovered this during its fight with the U.S. over the issue of Antigua’s online gaming industry. Despite winning every judgment considered by the WTO dispute resolution panels, Antigua has had zero luck getting the U.S. to comply with the WTO’s rulings. In America’s eyes, Antigua is like a mosquito – annoying, perhaps, but nothing that can’t be easily ignored, or, if it refuses to buzz off, swatted.
What America fails to recognize is that the preeminence in global affairs that it currently enjoys will not last forever. All empires eventually fall, and with a $13 trillion debt eating away at its foundation, America’s financial house is beginning to crumble. It can be argued that China has already usurped America’s role as chief dealmaker in the global business community, and India, with a billion people of its own, may also make a run for the title over the course of this century. So where will that leave the once omnipotent America? As the former American slave who escaped his plantation during the Civil War to fight alongside the Union Army told his former master upon his return: “Bottom rail on top now, massa.”
In short, America should make good on its WTO commitments to Antigua. After all, as the century progresses, America will probably need the WTO’s protections more than it would care to admit. Read more.