A few days in Geneva

The so-called ‘G5’ coun­tries (Aus­tralia, Brazil, EU, India and the USA) are meet­ing in Paris this week­end in an attempt to cut through their dif­fer­ences on agri­cul­tur­al trade rules, par­tic­u­lar­ly on mar­ket access. The African-Caribbean group (G‑90) is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly meet­ing in Mau­ri­tius seek­ing, prob­a­bly, to con­sol­i­date their demand that any new agree­ment on agri­cul­ture should place no new oblig­a­tions on them.

The jet d’eau

Both groups head back to Gene­va at the start of the week, where I’m work­ing on anoth­er project (more lat­er) for a few days. Like many oth­ers, I’ll be fol­low­ing devel­op­ments in the Agri­cul­tur­al nego­ti­a­tions as close­ly as I can. By the end of the week, the Chair­man of the nego­ti­at­ing group on Agri­cul­ture will try to pro­duce the text of a ‘frame­work’ for future nego­ti­a­tions tak­ing account of the posi­tions laid out in Paris and Mau­ri­tius. Anoth­er Mis­sion impos­si­ble? The for­mer Direc­tor Gen­er­al of WTO, Peter Sutherland—now Chair­man of BP and Gold­man Sachs—has been issu­ing stern, and rather pompous, warn­ings of the con­se­quences should this attempt at a ‘frame­work’ not suc­ceed. Fail­ure to agree now—coming after the col­lapse of the Can­cún meeting—could dam­age the WTO per­ma­nent­ly, he wrote in the Finan­cial Times. His vision of the chaos that could fol­low is pecu­liar, to say the least, for a for­mer EU Com­mis­sion­er for Com­pe­ti­tion Pol­i­cy: bq. With­out a cred­i­ble mul­ti­lat­er­al sys­tem of rules, can we cope in an order­ly fash­ion with the relent­less com­pet­i­tive impact of Chi­na in the glob­al econ­o­my? (“Finan­cial Times”:http://www.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1087373591114&p=1012571727102) This is wild­ly off-beam and euro­cen­tric. But Suther­land believes that such ‘dan­gers’ war­rant the sub­mer­sion of sub­stan­tive dif­fer­ences on agri­cul­ture for the sake of main­tain­ing the process of the nego­ti­a­tions. bq. … all par­ties must think very seri­ous­ly indeed before reject­ing the chair­man’s pro­pos­al [for a ‘frame­work’ on agri­cul­ture]. He will not get a sec­ond chance with­in the time avail­able. And if the agri­cul­tur­al frame­work can­not com­mand a con­sen­sus — albeit a reluc­tant con­sen­sus — no oth­er dossier will move.

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