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IMF Support For Doha

by Jeremy Hetherington-Gore, Tax-News.com, London

03 January 2012


A recent IMF report emphasizes the gains that would flow from a successful completion of the Doha Round, and urges both developed countries and emerging markets to re-engage in the stalled process.

Doha is worthwhile concluding, says the report, for two main reasons: (i) for its direct benefits through actual new market access; and (ii) to add security to trading relationships by updating members’ WTO commitments and multilateral trade rules.

The IMF observes that the breadth of issues covered by Doha has made it difficult to assemble a package agreeable to all 153 WTO members, and also notes that changed geopolitical circumstances have altered the balance of power between developed countries and emerging markets.

Although G-20 leaders asked at their November summit that trade ministers should actively explore fresh approaches to the negotiation process, including the possibility of a partial completion of the Round, this has not happened.

Despite its support for Doha, the IMF also says that making progress on timely non-Doha issues is equally essential — it should not be put off while awaiting an (unlikely) Doha breakthrough.

Says the report: "Since the Doha round started in 2001, many new trade issues have arisen and could benefit from greater attention in the WTO. Further progress on these new issues could also have a desirable side effect in reasserting the WTO’s negotiating function by partially delinking it from Doha. Key non-Doha issues include monitoring of protectionist measures, food and energy security, trade-related aspects of climate change, and creation of an open regionalism, either by encouraging improved design and transparency of free trade agreements or by allowing for plurilateral agreements under WTO auspices."

It seems unlikely that the IMF's well-intentioned prescriptions will have any impact, with almost all important participants in Doha otherwise occupied, in particular with trying to save themselves from economic melt-down. It could be argued that hard times present a perfect moment at which to encourage more trade, but the reality is that difficult external decisions are only possible when the domestic horizon is relatively settled.

TAGS: tax | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | trade treaty | excise duty | regulation | trade

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