The conclusion of the 2009 G8 Summit in Italy gave trade specialists some hope that the trend of protectionist policies will be on the decline – but don’t hold your breath. Citing the horrendous effects of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, G8 leaders condemned protectionist policies and advocated that the Doha Round, a declining trade negotiation body at the World Trade Organization (WTO), be reinforced. 

Now, the Doha Round negotiations, which aim to eliminate trade barriers, are scheduled to resume next Monday at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva. The talks have been frozen for eight years after 149 participating members failed to come to any sort of agreement. A new target aiming to complete a global free trade agreement has been set for 2010.  

However, the Doha’s record of failed attempts provides little reassurance that anything will actually come of fruition. Furthermore, the G8’s condemnation of protectionist policies is shrouded in hypocrisy since many of its members have put such policies in place. The viral round of anti-trade measures stemmed from the ‘Buy American’ provision that was crafted into the “stimulus” package. Some G8 members even created vehicle subsidies to the local-lending rules for bailed-out banks. 
World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy agreed that while resuming the Doha Round illustrates progress, no one should be overly optimistic.  “There is no indication yet of governments more generally unwinding or removing trade-restricting or distorting measures that they imposed early on in the crisis,” stated Lamy in an interview with Reuters. Nevertheless Lamy estimated that if the Doha is successful, a global trade deal would give the economy a $130 billion increase annually. 

I would encourage you to visit the Freedom to Trade coalition, of which ATR is a member, website for more on barriers to trade being erected around the world.