Geoff Miller is a former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments.

Reading this morning's news from the G8 Summit and thinking back to recent discussions of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), I was struck by the announcement of the likely opening of negotiations for a US-Europe FTA.

One salient feature of both the TPP and a US-Europe FTA is that both involve the US, the world's biggest economy. Another salient feature is that, between them, they would cover a very high proportion of the world's trade. If, as I suppose is possible, both sets of negotiations succeeded, you would have the US at the centre of two new arrangements which between them covered a very big proportion of the world's trade, with the outstanding exception of the BRICs. And the BRICs might find it hard to remain aloof in such circumstances. According to some reports there have already been statements from Chinese officials, for example, indicating at least potential interest in the TPP. 

Would the eventual next step be to merge the two, creating something that would in effect replace the WTO? Is such a thought perhaps already in US minds? It would be a giant step, but each of the two 'components' would be a very big step in its own right, and the existing world trade scene has certainly been stagnant for a long time now, as the inability to conclude the Doha Round has shown.

Photo by Flickr user G8 UK Presidency.