August 16, 2006

WTO, please take your time!

Sir, Fred Bergsten’s “Plan B for world trade: go regional” August 16, reads a bit like a bewildered courtiers screaming out “The Kings is dead, long live the King” anxious to regain their footing and sense of order in life. As I see it though, instead of rushing into new negotiations, desperately looking for results, any results, more could be gained from using the declared time out for some very serious house cleaning activities, destined to put some order into what is frequently described as the spaghetti bowl of trade agreements. Any global trading system, in order to be credible, needs at one point of time to be understandable and there is a feeling that there has been quite a long time since ordinary subjects, as I, have been able to understand and much less identify with what the monarchs were up to.

I have recently had the luck of being able to participate in a course about the Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) software being developed by The World Bank in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and that helps to provide access to the major trade and tariffs data. After that course, the real unanswered question for me was how on earth did we get anywhere without instruments like these? Or, does anyone really know where we really are as a world in terms of trade? WTO, please, take your time before you start rushing again, otherwise you might really lose us.