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Doha Dying

While America is captivated by the legal wranglings of a handful of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo, a trade deal that could have dramatic implications for the U.S. economy is dying a quiet death in section D:

GENEVA, June 29 — Rich countries promised 4 1/2 years ago to make the global trade system fairer for poor countries, changing rules to help them reap the rewards of international commerce. Now the negotiations launched then are reaching a do-or-die stage, but prospects are bleak for a deal that would bestow much benefit on the poor.
At the headquarters of the World Trade Organization on the shores of Lake Geneva, trade ministers from around the world convened Thursday in hope for a weekend breakthrough. The ministers seek to lower trade barriers worldwide. But unlike previous negotiations with similar aims, this set of talks has an ambitious twist: The main goal is to change rules that have put poor countries at a disadvantage in the global marketplace.
Even before the meetings could begin in earnest, initial comments from some ministers underscored the difficulties. Peter Mandelson, the European Union trade commissioner, said Thursday that the E.U. may offer sharp cuts in tariffs on farm goods in an effort to satisfy developing countries. But Mandelson can’t count on bringing along even the countries he ostensibly represents.

Other than the placement of the story, the Washington Post is good: It’s right about the stakes and the problems that threaten to sink this round of talks. In a nutshell, the three giants — the E.U., the United States, and a large block of developing countries led by India and Brazil — are offering large concessions that none of the others want, yet refusing to budge on the issues that really matter. When called on their intransigence, they point to the irrelevant concessions they’ve already offered and dodge on the more politically difficult ones. They’re talking past each other, and it’s a recipe for failure — especially when the public doesn’t know what’s happening.

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