Doha Round Update

It sounds like the Doha round is going that well.

Europe and the U.S. show no signs of breaking down agricultural trade barriers and opening their markets to food imports. President Bush has hiked subsidies for the farm sector by 80%, according to free-trade advocates. France and Germany are resisting any fundamental reform of the EU's subsidy-dependent agricultural sector. So much for President Chirac's expressions of concern for the poor of Africa and elsewhere during the recent G-8 meeting in France.

The price of failure at Doha goes even further than GDPs and income levels. A free-trade vision underlies these talks — openness, transparency, and the free flow of ideas, people, capital, and goods across international borders holds out the promise that a bounty long confined to a handful of industrial nations can be shared by the rest of the world.

Now, skepticism is growing about the rich countries' commitment to freer trade. "[Developing nations] see a focus on wars. They see a focus on post-conflict," World Bank President James Wolfensohn said in a recent speech. "But they don't see a focus on the war against poverty, what I call 'the other war.'"

The Bush Administration should realize that lowering trade barriers is far more important to long-term prosperity than cutting taxes. European leaders need to recognize that trade, not aid, is the best policy for raising living standards in developing nations. It's time for the rich countries to liberate agriculture and eliminate subsidies to their farmers.

Amen to that. Free trade has not been one of Bush's strong points, in my view. Part of the reason I vote Republican so often is that I see things like steel tariffs and farm subsidies as ideas of the left. This is one area where I think Clinton was to the right of Bush.