The freer movement of trade and capital has been a fundamental characteristic of the past 25 years of globalization. The Doha round, initiated in 2001, was the latest attempt to keep the process rolling. It now looks doomed. The deadlock between the US, the EU, Japan, and the developing countries seems final. And with the fast-track powers of the US president - which enable trade agreements to bypass Congress - scheduled to come to an end in 2007, any agreement later than this year will be subject to the unpredictability and delay of Capitol Hill. In other words, it is now or never, and it looks more and more like never.The fact that the west pushed globalization - hard - on the poor, but then refused to play ball the moment we had to sacrifice anything is probably the worst thing I can say about the last 30 years' worth of foreign policy.
Over the past decade, the political character of the WTO has changed markedly. During the Uruguay round it was relatively easy for the developed countries to get their way with the developing world by a combination of bullying, cajoling, dividing, bribing, and threatening. But the admission of China as a full member in 2001, the growing power of India, the election of Lula as president of Brazil, and the willingness of South Africa to join forces with them has meant that the developing countries have begun to acquire a powerful voice, substantial bargaining presence, and a self-confidence in their ability to resist western and Japanese pressures.That may be the only good thing that comes from China's unique combination of great aggregate wealth and low per-capita wealth: Great economic power in the global market, but still a committment to the global poor that no other country has. It would be truly weird if China became an advocate for the world's poor and working class in fact, and not just in theory.