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.
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