A story from Reuters http://reut.rs/1a0As7m has been circulating in the last hours that the blame for the collapse of the WTO talks is almost entirely India's. The theory is that the "electioneering" of the Indian government has led it to reject the peace clause on offer with respect to India's anti-hunger law, and obstinately hold out for more concessions. I have said enough in recent posts here about why on the merits India is entirely right to reject the current version of what is on the table concerning food security. That is not the point here. Nor is it the basic distortion about what has happened in the last days, in that the lack of agreement around trade facilitation involved more than India, to say the least. Of much greater concern than these journalistic distortions is the lengths that the WTO insider community will go to avoid any kind of self-diagnosis, effectively saying that years of troubled negotiations, impasse, and so forth were about to be magically solved when one country's government, for craven advantage at the ballot box, torpedoed the whole thing. What a condemnation of democracy-probably as nasty as anything that fascist political theorist Carl Schmitt every wrote about the Weimar Republic.
Five years ago Susan Esserman (a top US trade negotiator in the Clinton Administration) and I warned of why the WTO talks were on a path to failure and of the necessity to go back to the drawing board and take a different path appropriate to the realities of the 21st century:
The WTO risks irrelevance to the issues of today and tomorrow. Food and energy security, climate change, human rights, terrorism, international crime and corruption are reshaping the global economy and affecting how governments steer trade. The WTO is not grappling with these issues.
The WTO should also move beyond the straitjacket of the “grand bargain” negotiating round, in which progress cannot be achieved unless all countries reach agreement on all subjects. Instead, certain negotiating subjects could proceed separately or in clusters, expediting agreement and making the WTO more responsive to rapid changes in the global economy.
(The whole article is here,http://onforb.es/1iShyYp on Forbes.com)
Instead of thinking big the response of Lamy and his lieutenants to the woes of the Round was to think smaller and smaller, on the theory that the less on the table, the easier to agree.
So they ended up, and Azevedo alas followed their path, with a negotiation that, instead of being too big to fail, was too small to succeed--not enough at stake to get leaders to invest the political capital needed to make the final compromises, especially when they were putting lots of resources into dynamic bilateral and regional talks. Apart from services, the leadership also never moved off the consensus bargaining model, which as Esserman and I argued, while okay for the post-war "club",was not a likely avenue to big progress when you have 150 plus countries of enormous diversity of all kinds, political, economic, social, cultural.
Never for a moment has the WTO leadership (or the WTO insider community generally) stopped to think seriously about the course it is on, despite how the world has changed, and how multilateralism has changed. Instead, they have consistently thought that enough sermons about the sky falling in with the failure of Doha, and enough old-fashioned arm-twisting in the bargaining rooms, would do the trick eventually.
One glimmer of hope for political re-engagement with the WTO happened when President Obama talked about the need for liberalization of green trade as part of his overall climate strategy. But did the WTO leadership seize the day, and make this a prominent and dynamic piece of the negotiating agenda, putting energy into reviving those discussions, based on the APEC breakthrough? Not at all. A select group of Members met on the sidelines, "friends" of green trade liberalization, basically having to deny that they and their gatherings even existed.
Scapegoating India is terribly unfair to one of the world's greatest democracies. But scapegoating someone is the almost inevitable consequence of being unable to examine or question oneself. That, inability,as Socrates-citizen/critic of another great democracy-suggested,is the root of much of the error and mischief in the world.