‘Lame duck’ chairman of WTO agriculture talks digs in

Maybe the chairmanship has gone to his head. The NZ Government has fired it’s Ambassador to WTO, the Chairman of the Agriculture negotiating group. But Tim Grosser has returned to Geneva claiming he’s still got a role in the Doha negotiations as the Chair of the Agriculture Group.  Thanks Tim! Just what we need, the lame insisting that they can continue to lead the (almost) blind bq. New Zealand’s top trade negotiator, Tim Groser, has been dumped as ambassador to the World Trade Organisation. Mr Groser is standing as a National Party candidate in the general election—a decision Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton today described as betrayal.” (“The New Zealand Herald”:http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10127025) Grosser announced his deal with the opposition National Party back home in NZ before the end of his appointment as Ambassador in Geneva. He must have expected a sour reaction from the NZ Government: the NZ Prime Minister, who says that she has “lost confidence” in Grosser, endorsed the decision to withdraw his Ambassadorial commission. But Grosser countered that his job as Chair of the Negotiating group was not a NZ appointment and that he expected to continue in it. The rules on Chairmanship of WTO Committees are not elaborate. The “decision”:http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news02_e/tnc_01feb02_e.htm taken in February, 2002, just after the launch of the Doha negotiations contemplates only government officials as Chairs but specifically provides that they need not be resident in Geneva. According to the NZ Herald, the NZ law says that a public servant who stands for an seat in Parliament may retain a public service position if he/she is unsuccessful at the polls. So presumably he can claim to be eligible under WTO rules to remain as Chair of the Agriculture negotiating group. It’s another matter however whether the Members of WTO will want Grosser to stay on. In favor of keeping him in the post until July is that another person would have an herculean task to complete the consultations leading to the ‘approximations’ of the final agreement that are supposed to be presented to the negotiators in ten weeks’ time. The Agriculture negotiations are continuing to struggle along but the Members are groping for consensus on matters such as cuts to tariff barriers and ‘sensitive’ products. In this role, it hardly matters that Grosser is no long the NZ Ambassador, only that he has been the center of the long series of difficult consultations on the ‘approximation’. In this role he has held the Members’ trust and hopes. In favor of dumping him, as the NZ government has done, is that all the negotiators must now question the balance and insight of someone who chooses, as Grosser has chosen, shortly before the completion of such a high-profile and sensitive role—given to him in trust by the Members of WTO—to quit his job.

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