ROBERTO AZEVEDO, the head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), is not the architect of grand global trade deals that his title suggests. Sitting in his Geneva headquarters, he remembers only too well how the WTO’s Doha round collapsed under the weight of its own ambition. “Let’s do the trade deals that are in reach,” he says. Overambition is not the only problem. “Anti-trade rhetoric is catchy,” sighs Mr Azevedo. So catchy that it has infected deals beyond the WTO. The world’s most trumpeted regional trade deals are drifting out of grasp just when pep is most needed: on September 27th the WTO forecast that for the first time in 15 years, global trade growth this year, at just 1.7%, would not keep pace with global GDP.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a deal between America, Japan and ten other countries around the Pacific, was signed in February but is now faltering. On September 26th Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Democratic and Republican nominees for the American presidency, fought to distance themselves from it in their first televised presidential debate. Mr Trump labelled the deal “almost as bad as NAFTA” (the North...Continue reading