The Crisis in the International Trading System
Chapter 15: ‘Waiting for Godot’ or Riding the Orient Express? Trade Negotiations and the Global Audience
Don’t let’s do anything. It’s safer. Estragon to Vladimir, Act I Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, Tragicomedy in 2 Acts1 All around us are people, of all classes, of all nationalities, of all ages. M. Bouc to Hercule Poirot, Chapter 3 Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express2 I have long since lost count of the conferences I have spoken at since the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations commenced in 2001.3 Some have been conferences dealing exclusively with international trade matters; others have been general conferences where an explanation of the current state of play in the negotiations was wanted. These meetings tend to follow a wellworn pattern that verges on routine. The days are given to formal presentations, distinguished panels and round-table discussions. At the end of the day, or in the evening after dinner, those whose primary working-life focus is trade policy tend to congregate in small groups in the bar to decode the latest runes coming out of Geneva. These are typically academics, government officials, employees of international organisations, etc. This is the most valuable part of the conference for those who work in trade policy – the negotiations are far from transparent and the sharing of individual information helps in fitting the pieces of the puzzle together. A few others who have a more casual interest in trade policy often come along to share in the beer and company – and sometimes they may hope to learn something. At a recent conference, one of my former students,...
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