Our loss at Doha

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Our loss at Doha

The World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Agenda has finally, after seven years, fallen apart.

Tentative agreements lowered tariffs on manufactured goods and allowed developing countries to protect their agricultural sectors, but negotiations failed to be finalized.

The joint effort to lower international trade barriers collapsed. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said while it is too early to give up, the future looks dim.

Korea has lost a rare opportunity. It was hoping to see economic growth of 2.4 percent. The agreement would have acted as a new growth engine.

Globalization and free trade have hit a snag.

What’s most worrying is that a protectionist tide is rising in powerful countries. The world economy faces difficult times. Due to the insolvency of subprime loans the global financial market is unstable. On top of this, the world is burdened by high international oil prices and raw materials.

And countries are locking their doors to protect their own industries.

Washington and New Delhi, where there are elections coming, are boldly advocating trade protection to woo voters.

The protectionist movement is likely to solidify in the United States once the Democrats take over the White House in November.

With the global economy worsening and free trade declining, Korea is stuck in the middle. Since multilateral negotiations failed, the remaining effective means is bilateral free trade.

Free trade ratification with the United States should be rushed. And free trade negotiations with the European Union and China should be accelerated. At a time when every country is searching for ways to grow, bilateral free trade is our key to survival.

The only area that is getting a break from all of this is the vulnerable agriculture sector. The agriculture industry’s international competitiveness should be maximized while negotiations are stalled for the next couple of years.

It will not be easy for Korea to sustain its position as a developing country in the agricultural area. This year alone, the deficit in the agriculture, fishery and maritime as well as livestock industries amounts to $15 billion. This figure is two times the trade deficit in semiconductors.

However, as can be seen in the recent international grains crisis, agriculture is an area that should not be abandoned.
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