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By Philippe Legrain 1 COMMENT

Doha is not yet dead and buried, but already the European Union is rushing to pursue new bilateral trade agreements instead.

We should go beyond the EU’s existing bilateral free trade agreements,
by setting out the case for new free trade agreements designed to
deliver more open markets and fairer trading conditions in new areas of
growth, particularly in Asia.

says Peter Mandelson, the EU’s trade commissioner. India, South Korea and the ASEAN countries are already said to be in his sights.

The EU likes to pretend that it is the champion of multilateralism and the WTO. Indeed, Mandelson insists that "there will be no European retreat from multilateralism".

But this is nonsense. The EU has already signed more bilateral and regional trade agreements than any other country or trade bloc – far more than the US, for instance. With "friends" like the EU, no wonder the WTO is in dire straits.

Posted 18 Sep 2006 in Blog
  1. ignatius says:

    The EU is indeed the world’s champion of bilateralism. And it is a very difficult negotiating partner. Last year during my uni research on Central America’s trade policies, I intervewed a few Central American diplomats working with the WTO and in charge of these countries’ trade relations with Europe. An “association agreement” CA-EU was being discused. Many most said that negotiating with the EU is even harder for them than with the United States. They argued that the EU is never clear on its terms of negotiations – the interpretation of words and legal terms tends to be constantly fluctuating. It also has the tendency to hide protectionist motives and sectoral interests behind “development” and “democratic” arguments. One was clearly irked by having been told what is good for his country. Asians, given how Europe fears you, be prepared to have tough times.

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