WHILE MANY trade policy specialists are disillusioned about the Doha Round, a solid majority of the public in many countries strongly supports freer trade. The 2003 Pew and the 2004 German Marshall Fund polls show that more than 80 percent of those polled make a sharp distinction between freer trade, which they see positively, and globalization, which they sometimes fear. After 10 years of highly publicized anti-globalization movements, these results are amazing, especially considering that they show no difference between countries exhibiting a free trade stance and those famous for their vocal protectionism.
Why are trade specialists so frustrated and out of step with the public? No doubt a major factor is fatigue. They are acutely aware of how long it takes just to make demonstrable progress. They are also deeply frustrated by the gap between what is actually done and what could be done, given the costly nature of current trade policies. But, ultimately, disillusion is the best ally of vested protectionist interests.
Disillusionment takes the form of five frequently heard remarks. First, trade policy is marginal, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is irrelevant or too constraining- domestic policies are what really matter. But the fact that trade policy is largely concerned with fiscal and regulatory issues raises serious doubts about the robustness of the line between trade and domestic policies. As for the WTO, one of its roles-probably the most important one-is to catalyze complementary domestic reforms. By destabilizing domestic vested interests, the multilateral trade regime is certainly an integral part of domestic policies.
Second, the WTO is medieval. But how many other institutions have adjusted so quickly to such a totally new world? In the early 1980s-only 20 years ago-freer trade was a serious objective for only the major industrialized countries plus a handful of Asian and Latin American emerging economies, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) talks were driven by the United States and the European Community. In the early 1990s, the Uruguay Round negotiations involved 10-15 more emerging countries, with the talks guided by the "Quad" (the United States, the European Union [EU], Canada, and...