Thursday, April 16, 2009

Doubting WTO chief Pascal Lamy‘s Doha data

The top executive of the World Trade Organization (WTO) got an unusual public rebuke April 14 during an informal session in Geneva of the WTO trade policy review board, made up of representatives of the organization’s full membership.

India’s trade envoy, Ujal Singh Bhatia, challenged a forecast that WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy made in his latest report on trade and the current economic and financial crisis. Bhatia specifically questioned Lamy about how he arrived at the figure of $150,000,000,000 as the potential “stimulus” benefit that would result if the stalled Doha Round succeeded.

He cautioned against repeating figures “not supported by hard data.”

“In the last few years I have seen numbers ranging from $400,000,000,000 to $40,000,000,000,“ Bhatia said, citing a statement of economist Peter Galbraith that “the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable,” according to a report of the Business Standard of India.

In his remarks at the meeting, Ambassador Peter Allgeier, deputy U.S. trade representative, said that the U.S. remains committed to conclude “an ambitious and balanced” Doha Development Agreement. According to a USTR release, he added: “In this regard, we support India’s request for details on the $150,000,000,000 figure in the report for estimated tariff savings from DDA.”

In his response, Lamy defended his figure as neither “rocket science” nor “astrology” but based on “the revenues foregone” from the tariff cuts proposed last July as part of the Doha round. His report to the meeting explains in detail why “The Doha Development Round is the best stimulus package.”

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