Fair trade through Doha

It's make or break on a Doha deal worth 120 billion euros per year, argues Trade and Development Min

We are witnessing the biggest restructuring of global economic life since the Industrial Revolution. Over the next 25 years the world economy will double in size, creating a billion new jobs worldwide, offering untold opportunity to individuals, communities and nations.

However, not everyone around the world has benefited from globalisation so far, and while many have been lifted out of poverty, plenty are still unable to meet their basic needs. The response of some in the face of this crisis is to pull up the drawbridge, to retreat into protectionism - indeed this is a response which is gaining ground. Historically though, countries that have grown, prospered and reduced poverty have done so because they have become part of the global economy and opened up their markets to trade. Take East Asia. Over the last 30 years, its share of world trade has trebled while some 500m people were lifted out of poverty.

If we are to resist the forces of protectionism and at the same time make trade work for the poorest, the challenge we all face is nothing less than to transform our global trading system and make it fit for purpose in the 21st Century. Intensifying global trade and economic integration could bring unprecedented opportunities in the 21st century and the current Doha world trade negotiations have a major role in making this happen.

Why does Doha matter? Because in a time of recent economic uncertainty, a Doha deal could boost the global economy by 120 billion euros per year. Doha could bring €30bn each year for the EU economy alone.

A deal will strengthen the EU economy through improving business competitiveness, creating new jobs, and benefiting consumers. It will create further opportunities for EU companies in overseas markets.

But most significantly, a Doha deal will bring greater access into the world’s richest markets for the poorest countries to export their agricultural goods, textiles and clothing – allowing them to trade their way out of poverty.

Developing countries lose about €12 billion a year in agricultural income from protectionism and subsidies in developed countries. A deal could help to lift millions out of poverty and make great gains in reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

But to get there all WTO members need to commit to securing a successful outcome to the upcoming ministerial gathering. The US will need to give ground and demonstrate that its commitment to closing the deal will be made a reality. This means significant cuts to agricultural subsidies, particularly on cotton.

The greatest gains for Europe will not come from protecting agriculture. Consumers across the EU will benefit from lower agricultural tariffs, while businesses will gain from greater market access for industrial goods. The EU will gain improved market access for its vehicles, medicines, chemicals and machinery into both developed and developing countries.

And developing countries need to show commitment to closing the deal now. They have much to gain from what’s already on the table now: increased market access in agricultural and industrial goods; reductions in agricultural subsidies; the ending of all forms of export support by 2013; and 97 per cent duty free, quota free (DFQF) access for the least developed countries.

The Doha negotiations need to be successfully concluded now. Not only because of the lost income and lost opportunities that would result from failing to secure a deal this year. If we don't secure agreement on the headlines of a deal in the WTO Ministerial, we will not get a conclusion to the Round for 3 years or more. The US and Indian elections, and a new European Commission next year mean that trade talks would not start again for almost 2 years if at all. And we cannot be sure that we would be able to capture the progress that’s been made up to now if we were to start again two years from now. This deal may never be on the table again.

Further, failure to conclude the WTO’s first trade Round would be a serious blow to the credibility of one of the pillars of the multilateral system and the global community's ability to face up to the global challenges of today and tomorrow. Failure to secure agreement would represent a missed opportunity to prevent a drift into greater protectionism, and crucially, to lift millions out of extreme poverty that still blights too much of our world.

Time is running out. In Geneva next week, we will be engaged in an historic opportunity which, if seized, could see the world take a giant step toward a fairer and more open global trading system. The significance of what lies within our grasp cannot be overstated. But, neither can the scale of lost opportunity and wasted human potential if we fail.

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times