[Founded in 2000 by the CRCE.]
The near collapse of the Doha round of the multilateral trade negotiations at the WTO Ministerial conference in Cancun inspired the Enterprise Institute to organise a round table to discuss the consequences for the WTO�s future and globalisation processes. The failure passed almost unnoticed in Slovenia, which is not a WTO policy maker. The roundtable�s aim was to raise awareness of the gravity of this current stalemate in the Doha round.
Professor Razeen Sally, of the London School of Economics and leading British trade policy expert gave the keynote speech. He was joined for the panel discussion by H.E. Hugh Mortimer, British Ambassador to Slovenia, Dr Rasto Ovin, University of Maribor and Matej Kovac from the Enterprise Institute. Some 40 participants from academia, business, civil service and politics took part.
In his speech Dr. Sally presented a rather sombre picture of WTO, the main arguments being its regulatory overload, excessive legalisation and politicisation. Three possible scenarios as a way out from the present impasse were presented: The WTO could develop along EU lines, with its regulatory overkill, become a UN style debating club or rediscover the rationale of the GATT and become a global force for progressive liberalisation of trade. Needless to say, the last would be the most welcome. The raison d�etre of GATT was the progressive reduction and removal of barriers to trade, assisted by simple, transparent and non-discriminatory rules. With such a restored focus WTO would fulfil its mission.
Unfortunately the optimistic scenario is not likely to happen since after Cancun the major players will be concerned with domestic issues: the USA will be preoccupied with the oncoming presidential elections and the EU with the Enlargement problems. Given the tight time frame of 18 months to conclude a deal and save the Doha round, the prospects for the future of the WTO are bleak indeed. This does not mean that trade liberalisation is endangered or globalisation processes will stop. These negative events within the WTO mean only that the focus might shift toward regional trade agreements, which, however, have certain disadvantages, i.e. they have asymmetrical rules and trade liberalisation tends to be lopsided. Clearly trade liberalisation managed by WTO negotiations is valuable and the Doha round is worth resuscitating. To achieve this, the WTO needs a less ambitious programme on the Singapore issues and to design a reasonably workable decision making mechanism.
All these developments will have a considerable impact on a small opened economy like Slovenia�s. Despite being only a minor prospective member of the European Union, Slovenia should form a firm WTO policy and try to steer EU common policy toward fostering future trade liberalisation. But the EU�s diehard stand on Singapore issues and agricultural subsidies would seem to make this a mission impossible.
The success of the round table owes much to Dr. Sally�s brilliant presentation that encouraged a lively debate. The event was covered by Finance, the leading business daily newspaper.
For the third consecutive year, the Institute ran its Hayek Essay Competition which, this time, was aimed at students from the University of Ljubljana and University of Maribor.
The aim of our essay competition, to identify inquisitive young individuals who believe in classical liberal tradition and invite them as collaborators, is gradually bearing fruit. Matej Steinbacher our last year�s winner spent an unforgettable three months at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in America.