Experts gloomy on WTO agriculture framework

The always fas­ci­nat­ing IIBEL poll of WTO experts and insid­ers appeared over the week­end with a gloomy assess­ment of the cur­rent talks on a frame­work for con­tin­u­ing the agri­cul­ture nego­ti­a­tions bq. “Respon­dents are hedg­ing their bets as the Gene­va process heads into the final week, with just about one-third pre­dict­ing that con­sen­sus will be reached on a pack­age of frame­work deci­sions by the end of the month.  A larg­er num­ber (40%) pre­dict fail­ure and slight­ly less than 30 per­cent give con­sen­sus a fifty-fifty chance” (“Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness, Eco­nom­ics and Law”: This is much dark­er than my own assess­ment of where the odds now stand. Although the risks remain high, there have been two pos­i­tive devel­op­ments over the week­end # The African group has appar­ent­ly accept­ed the for­mu­la­tion for accel­er­at­ed, but not excep­tion­al, action to resolve the cot­ton sub­si­dies prob­lem
# The US Admin­is­tra­tion has man­aged to say some­thing supportive—despite the howls of its own cot­ton lobby—while man­ag­ing to sound uncom­pro­mis­ing and avoid­ing a debate over its own like­ly con­ces­sions on export cred­it terms and the mon­e­ti­za­tion of its food-aid dona­tions Pres­i­dent Chirac—who read­ers may remem­ber “pub­licly offered”: eigh­teen months ago to elim­i­nate the use of export sub­si­dies for Africa (a pro­pos­al as imprac­ti­cal as it was idio­syn­crat­ic)—remains the only Head of State to have attempt­ed to pre-empt the nego­ti­a­tions by reject­ing the draft sub­sidy-elim­i­na­tion pro­pos­als as ‘unbal­anced’, rather sub­stan­ti­at­ing the car­i­ca­ture of his nego­ti­at­ing style over oth­er mul­ti­lat­er­al issues.

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