What, you mean I have to re-draft my blog item! Here I had something sublimely despondent already written up about how the current World Trade Organization “mini-ministerial” meeting was proving a waste of time with no one willing to really engage, when word came late Friday that a “breakthrough” had just been agreed. This was a pleasant surprise after years of nothing, but was it meaningful, particularly for manufacturers of electrical equipment? Frankly, it’s a little hard to tell, and if anything it’s actually easier figuring out some of the things that didn’t happen: *Japan and India refused to sign on — because Tokyo simply doesn’t like agreeing to anything that might threaten its farmers, and New Delhi simply doesn’t like agreeing – a fatal flaw since the WTO requires unanimity. *Only a relatively small number of countries were represented in the room when the deal was struck, so it’s hardly a given that everyone else really concurs. *There were all sorts of controversial details and concessions relating to nations rich and poor, but did the major developing economies really commit to significantly lowering their industrial tariffs? (Brazil said OK though the concessions arguably aren’t big, China wavered, Russia still isn’t even a WTO member.) *U.S. officials will apparently heed demands by other governments to put immigration-related issues (initially temporary entry for highly-skilled workers) on the table, despite the fact that Capitol Hill has long fingered this as a no-go area. In short, one could easily suspect that this was a deal that happened because it had to. It keeps the ball in play, crosses into some new areas, and allows participants to sleep well during their August breaks, but the pace remains glacial, it’s still all officially “modalities” (ie, talks about talks) rather than negotiations themselves, and a final significant deal that everyone can endorse still seems awfully far away. Please prove me wrong.

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