The collapse of WTO talks has some observers despairing that further trade negotiations will move forward in the coming years. Unfortunately, it seems like we're seeing China and India acting out an eerie parody of our own doesn't-play-well with others approach to the world. One expert quoted in the piece points out that this may be because "China and India might find it more advantageous to negotiate bilateral agreements in which they can apply more pressure on a single trading partner."

Between U.S. ambitions and those of China and India, the WTO couldn't compromise on ways to protect farmers in developing countries from deeply subsidized agriculture in the developed world. I wonder if part of the reason some people see international neo-liberal institutions like the WTO, IMF and World Bank as predators who wreak havoc with poor countries' economies is the fact that U.S. policy doesn't allow them to act in favor of the greater good that would come from a fair international trading community.

That said, obviously other countries need to come to the table prepared to compromise as well. But the U.S. attitude, summed up by our lead negotiator as “U.S. commitments remain on the table, awaiting reciprocal responses,” isn't moving us forward.

--Tim Fernholz

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