Can a Deal be Done on Doha?

Hopes are rising that the U.S. and the European Union may find ways to work out their differences on advancing more open international trade. Today President Bush met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, with trade talks high on the agenda.

After the meeting, both leaders strongly endorsed the need to advance the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round. Negotiations have been at a standstill since last July, when talks broke down mainly because the U.S. and the EU could not agree on substantial cuts in agricultural subsidies and tariffs. (For CEI’s perspective on the talks and the Doha Round, check here.)

Advancing trade talks is going to take some adroit leadership in both camps. In the recent U.S. elections, scores of candidates from both parties demagogued about the evils of “unfair” trade. Another complicating factor: In the U.S. the President’s ability to make deals and ask for Congressional approval up or down — Trade Promotion Authority or fast-track authority — will expire at the end of June 2007. Democratic policymakers, such as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, have said that to renew TPA, more environmental and labor provisions need to be included in trade agreements.

In the EU, agricultural support is high, and many countries, particularly France, have been notorious in protecting its farmers — and not wanting to budge an inch on giving up those generous subsidies.