Don’t Kill Off Doha
It’s doom and gloom all around in regard to the Doha Round and even as regards the World Trade Organization itself. But these fears seem overblown. Even if the upcoming WTO summit in Bali in 10 days’ time does fail to reach an encompassing deal, something will be saved from the rubble, and nothing prevents the Round from continuing other than the exhaustion of the participants. All existing agreements remain in place; and the WTO’s dispute resolution procedures will continue to operate. And by the way, non-WTO trade deals quite often specify that disputes should be dealt with through the WTO. There isn’t and can’t be any substitute for the WTO. Indeed I’d like to see its quasi-judicial remit extended beyond trade to other fields, say tax treaties and transfer pricing. The OECD is good at constructing sets of rules, which by and large are incorporated in tax treaties; but the mutual agreement procedures they prescribe are unwieldy, long-winded and often ineffective. The final arbiter in cases of dispute for Europe is the EU’s Arbitration Convention, which is a dead letter. The WTO is the obvious place for resolution of international disputes over tax; and it could go on from there. But it won’t, I suppose. At all events, let’s congratulate The Seychelles on its steady progress towards WTO membership, something that should arrive in 2014, making it the 158th WTO member.