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January 10, 2007

Hallelujah

Sometimes it's nice to hear a little good news.  From the Financial Times:

The transatlantic push to conclude the troubled Doha round of global trade talks got a wary welcome from the head and some members of the World Trade Organisation on Tuesday.

Details of any deal to reconcile the US and European Union positions remain elusive, but Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO, said the determination expressed this week by US president George W. Bush and José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, was a marked advance.

Similar expressions of enthusiasm from Mr Bush and other heads of government during the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg last summer were not followed by concessions at the negotiating table, and the Doha talks were suspended in July amid bitter transatlantic recriminations.

But Mr Lamy said prospects were better. “The signs we are seeing now are qualitatively different from what we heard last year,” he told the Financial Times. “The political chemistry is beginning to work.”

And from The Wall Street Journal (page A1 of the print edition):

With Fidel Castro ailing and absent from the public stage, some influential Cuban intellectuals are laying plans for a more market-oriented approach to fortify the island's ailing communist economy...

Together, the Cuban economists' proposals would cut down on state interference in businesses and aim to wring more productivity out of the island nation's economy. Among the steps under discussion: decentralizing control, expanding the power of managers at privately owned agricultural cooperatives, extending private ownership to other sectors, boosting investment in infrastructure and increasing incentives to workers.

None of the plans would shuck communism for capitalism or open the island further to foreign investment -- which economists outside Cuba say are critical for the island to prosper. But the fact that the government is permitting -- and perhaps even encouraging -- the debate suggests regime officials might find these kinds of changes acceptable, though it may take Mr. Castro's death to put them into action.

There are lots of devils in all the details of both stories, but hey, it's a new year.  Why not start it with a little hope?

January 10, 2007 in Americas, Europe, Trade | Permalink

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