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”:http://www.iibel.adelaide.edu.au) 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”:http://www.euractiv.com/cgi-bin/cgint.exe?204&OIDN=1504784&-tt 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.
Peter Gallagher is student of piano and photography. He was formerly a senior trade official of the Australian government. For some years after leaving government, he consulted to international organizations, governments and business groups on trade and public policy.
He teaches graduate classes at the University of Adelaide on trade research methods and the role of firms in trade and growth and tweets trade (and other) stuff from @pwgallagher