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To Blog or Not to Blog about the WTO Ministerial?

This post also appeared on the Huffington Post.

I write about trade so I feel that I should say something about the trade ministers’ meeting that concluded yesterday in Geneva. But what is there to say, especially if I want to follow my mother’s advice about not saying anything if I can’t say something nice? There have been almost too many to count of failed meetings trying to bring the ill-fated Doha Round of trade negotiations to a close. This one was supposed to be about institutional issues and how to strengthen the WTO for the future; Doha dominated anyway.

A U.S. Trade Policy for Development: Helping The Poorest in A Time of Crisis

This blog orginally apeared on Vox on 5/27/09

The economic crisis is hitting the world’s poorest countries through falling trade and commodity prices. This column argues that the US should respond by further opening its market to exports from small, poor economies. That would not only provide an additional stimulus to those economies but also strengthen US global leadership, give a boost to the Doha Round, and serve broader US national interests by helping to promote political stability in some very shaky parts of the world.

“The World’s poorest developing nations have a special place in the Obama trade agenda.”

-US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Georgetown University, 29 April 2009

While welcome, it is not yet clear how Ambassador Kirk’s words, and the President’s commitment, will be turned into action – and the need for action is urgent.

New Poll Confirms that Congress Doesn't Listen to Voters When Lavishing Subsidies on Farmers

When I was writing my book, Delivering on Doha: Farm Trade and the Poor, I came across a 2004 poll showing that Americans, including in farm states, support subsidies only for small farmers and only in bad years. Last week, another poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland was released showing that attitudes haven’t changed. The reality, as I discussed in my book, is that the top 20 percent of recipients receive 80 percent of all payments.

Missed Opportunities in Port of Spain, But a Step Forward on Cuba

As President Obama was making his way to the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago last week, many hoped for something more concrete than just a fresh start with our neighbors in Latin America, who felt neglected and ignored for the past eight years. Those of us hoping that the president might take the opportunity to announce plans to seek congressional approval for two trade agreements that have been pending for two years or more--with Panama and Colombia--were disappointed.

Do We Need a "Crisis Round" of Trade Talks? (Or Just Faster Dispute Settlement?)

Would a “Crisis Round” of trade talks launched at the London Summit next week be a useful mechanism for averting a further beggar-thy-neighbor protectionism? My colleague Arvind Subramanian and his frequent co-author, World Bank economist Aaditya Mattoo, think so. They argued for such a move in an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal Asia earlier this week (A Crisis Calls for a Crisis Round):

Kirk Confirmation Hearing is Opportunity for Obama Administration to Link Trade and Development

The confirmation hearing for Ron Kirk, President Obama's choice for U.S. Trade Representative, is now scheduled for March 5th. When Kirk goes before the Senate Finance Committee, we hope that the senators will probe him on trade policy and development policy -- specifically, how they intersect and how they could be better coordinated. Currently, trade and development policy are often dealt with as separate issues by the U.S. government.

(Mostly) Good News on Trade Front in Stimulus Compromise

Although we still do not have all the details, CQ Politics is reporting that most of last week's compromise on Trade Adjustment Assistance made it back into the stimulus bill. It had been pulled from the Senate version because of demands from Senator Kyl (R-AZ) that TAA reform be linked to a date certain for voting on the free trade agreement with Colombia.