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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