The full text of the letter follows:
The WTO can still work
SIR – Your leader on the latest setback for the World Trade Organization sets out an intriguing vision for the future of multilateral trade liberalization (“No more grand bargains”, August 9th). But your call for a radical change of approach is dangerously premature. You say that the WTO has allowed the “best [to] be the enemy of the good” in negotiating new trade pacts. But in reality, last December’s Bali accord was a radical break from the orthodoxy of multilateral negotiations, moving away from the struggle for an all-encompassing grand bargain to strike a limited deal covering a handful of important trade reforms.
Many in the business community would agree with your notion that the WTO might usefully focus on stand-alone deals for individual industries. But is this realistic? The mercantilist nature of trade policy—in which “offensive” objectives are traded against “concessions” in other areas—would suggest not. What the Bali agreement showed is that the middle ground of slimmer deals can work, and last month’s impasse need not fundamentally change that perception.
A more important point follows from this: that the delay in implementing the core component of the Bali agreement need not equate to a knockout blow for the WTO. The landmark “trade facilitation” deal remains primed and on the table. This is a very different situation from the previous crises which have punctuated the much-maligned Doha talks.
The change in circumstance does call for a different approach; just not the one that you suggest. It requires governments to get back to the negotiating table without delay.
International Chamber of Commerce
The letter can be read online on The Economist website.