What Should the United States Do about Doha?

Policy Brief
11-8
June 2011

Doha Round "doctors" have prescribed a wide range of treatments for what ails the trade talks, ranging from placebo pills to euthanasia. In essence, the treatment options fall into three broad categories: (1) declare victory and sign the deal "on the table"; (2) "declare failure and go home"; or (3) recognize that the talks cannot conclude in the current environment and that the Doha Round needs a "time-out." Under either option 2 or 3, US officials would receive a large share of the blame for Doha's woes. So what should the United States do now to deflect such criticism, minimize damage to the World Trade Organization, and advance US trading interests? Schott recommends that the United States needs to keep open the multilateral option while accelerating bilateral and regional trade initiatives. The former requires, as a practical matter, making a down payment (in the form of provisional implementation of specific reforms) on a future Doha package that is more ambitious and balanced than what is now "on the table" in Geneva; the latter requires working particularly with the European Union, Brazil, and India to resolve problems that can subsequently be "locked in" WTO schedules.