Toward decision in Doha

WTO: Expanding trade is best way to stimulate global economy, raise living standards of the poor.

November 04, 2001

THE WORLD Trade Organization meeting Nov. 9 to 13 in Doha, Qatar, on the Persian Gulf, must go on as scheduled for the good of the world. Especially those parts of it called the Islamic World and the Third World.

One reason is to overcome the terrorism that has spread pessimism and curtailed daily life in the United States and the developed world. A second is to restore confidence and world solidarity to the Islamic world, including the host country. A third is to make progress, stalled at the last WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, in bringing benefits of the global economy to the world's poor.

There are two sets of terrorists to overcome. One is those associated with al-Qaida who threaten every regime and people in the Middle East.

The other, barely qualifying for the label, is the band of people who turn legitimate anti-globalization demonstrations into violent confrontation to prevent meetings from taking place. The movement in which they hide is subdued after the atrocities committed by real terrorists, and anticipates less tolerance for uncivil disobedience.

For the Doha meeting to take place as scheduled means to triumph over the threats from terrorists and extremists. But it is not enough for the 142 national trade and commerce delegations to meet. They have to achieve a further reduction in barriers to trade.

With recession gripping the United States and the world, a World Bank report called for a new round of trade liberalization to stimulate the global economy and development.

The rich countries urge the poor ones to drop their barriers and open up to investment. The poor in turn want the richest countries to scrap barriers to low-wage manufactures. Both are right.

Pressure is mounting on the United States, Canada and Japan to emulate the European Union in granting duty-free access for all goods but weapons from the 49 poorest countries.

Al-Qaida's world view offers the Arab countries only the poverty and oppression of contemporary Afghanistan. Anti-globalization campaigners, for all their professed concern, offer the poor only perpetuation of their isolation.

The World Trade Organization should help open the gates of most of the world to a better life. But the WTO failed to achieve anything in Seattle, more because of its own fractiousness than because of the hostility on the street. The WTO -- which means all its 142 nation members -- has to do better in Doha, for the good of all people.

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