Anu Bradford on Davos in the Washington Post

Moving Beyond Doha
Anu Bradford
Washington Post
February 1, 2011

One note of optimism that arose from the 2011 World Economic Forum gathering in Davos was a powerful manifestation of political will to close the struggling trade talks. Few expressed dissent on the benefits of concluding the decade-long Doha Round -- rather, the key message was to convey a sense of urgency by setting a credible deadline for the closing of the talks by the end of this year.

The belief that the Doha Round must and can be completed by the end of 2011 primarily reflects the political reality of the approaching U.S. presidential elections. If the deal is not done by the end of this year, the window of opportunity will have closed. And with that, the fear is that multilateral trade liberalization has reached its limit.

Compared with the sense of fatigue surrounding sessions on crucial topics including climate change, the session on “Revitalizing Global Trade” was almost upbeat. The room was full. Prominent speakers -- including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono -- all agreed on the unambiguous benefits of further trade liberalization. Successful conclusion of the Doha Round would increase global trade by up to $500 billion and give duty-free access to 49 of the poorest countries. The speakers shared the view that no country -- developed or developing -- can forgo this “free stimulus” in the current state of economy.

Yet the list of Davos’s trade discussion absentees tells another story. Nonattendance of the U.S., China, India, and Brazil was palpable, leaving the attendees without reassurance that the political will of those who matter most will emerge. It was also indicative that President Nicolas Sarkozy made no reference to the closing of the Doha Round when discussing the priorities of the ongoing French presidency of the G-20 countries.