Development, Trade, and Democracy

The world’s economic powers—the United States, European Union, and Japan—keep saying that they have three shared goals: promoting global development, advancing the global trading system, and strengthening democracy. They have actually sketched a straightforward policy route to advance all three goals. The roadmap for advancing development, trade, and democracy is in place.

Yet while they have drawn the roadmap, they have not yet chosen to start the engine, let alone step on the accelerator. If things do not change soon, they will probably need a tow.

What is missing? The political will to get moving. The Doha Round of world trade talks, launched in 2001 with its promising “Development Agenda,” is on the verge of collapse. Sizeable increases in foreign assistance, promised in 2002 at the United Nations’ Monterrey Summit, are also unlikely to be fulfilled. And without any progress on either of these two, the economic powers are not likely to get developing country buy-in for the political reforms that are needed to ensure that trade and assistance are used effectively.

Regardless of the 2004 American presidential election, political will is not likely to come from political leaders. Support is fading for trade, aid, and real democratic reforms. Since these three policy challenges are increasingly interrelated, new coalitions across all three areas are needed.