Tomorrow (April 22) the International Chamber of Commerce will hold its World Trade Agenda Summit in,of all places, Doha, Qatar. A key document for the Summit is a report produced under the auspices of the Peterson Institute, a kind of updated catechism of neo-liberalism, "Payoff From the World Trade Agenda 2013." http://bit.ly/12z2KWG. It is an apology for the Doha Agenda, and more broadly for the approach taken by Pascal Lamy during his tenure as WTO DG. Big on services trade liberalization, as if the financial crisis and the water privatization disasters had never happened; high about Aid for Trade, although the evidence is that there's been little gain in poverty reduction; but on the positive side, advocating multilateralization of the APEC deal on liberalized trade in green goods; aware of the dangers of ag export restrictions to food security; and, very good, proposing that all panel and AB procedings be webcast.
The high point of the report is the brilliant idea that the Appellate Body could become, in effect, a world court of international trade, open to disputes under RTAs-this reflects the insight that the WTO's own comparative advantage, at least for now, is in dispute settlement not negotiation. The low point is, for me, the illogical suggestion that we have to deal with the outdated Doha agenda before we can address the real agenda of today, the 21st century (p. 47). The authors of the report attribute the view that the WTO should fast forward to the 21st century agenda to "extreme voices within the pundit class." Now the idea of fast-forwarding was one Sue Esserman and I had already advanced several years ago in opeds. Could the authors of the report be referring to us? Extremists? Oh well, Carly Simon probably got it right-you're so vain I'll bet you think this song is about you....
Bottom line: this report shows the ability of the old insider trade policy community to regroup, mixing apoletics for the non-results and legitimacy failures of the last years with some creative, forward-looking proposals (like the webcast of panel and AB hearings and the idea of opening the DS system to RTAs).
Take note that at least two of the five WTO DG candidates remaining (based on the flawed process) are essentially unreformed neo-liberals:,Blanco and Groser. Civil society should give this report and the Qatar procedings a close look, and engage sooner rather than later.