Let it go, Pascal

This week, in Geneva

“[WTO Director-General Pascal] Lamy recently outlined the next steps in the process, specifying that the chairs of the various negotiating groups would table documents – which sources indicate could be in the form of reports or new text, depending on the topic – on 21 April for members to reflect on during the four days the WTO breaks for Easter holidays. He would then meet with groups of key members.” Extract from ICTSD • WTO Negotiators Eye “Soft Landing”

Lamy ‘s efforts to pull a Doha Round result from between the cracks have been increasingly desperate since they became well-defined chasms.

“We are looking at what we can salvage from the whole thing,” one official sighed. A “soft landing” would involve WTO members agreeing that the 2011 deadline would not be reached, and seeking to salvage progress achieved to date, another said. However, “it would be premature to enter into a mode of soft landing” before the confessionals held by Lamy are finished, one official argued.“No one wants to call it quits,” said another.Extract from ICTSD

The sky won’t fall-in if Members give up on a “big bang” from this Round.

Sure, the sand will start running down for WTO when negotiations are abandoned. The Disputes system will struggle to carry the credibility of the Organization on its own. But there’s time to re-invent, if we put aside this debilitating Round now.

The outlook probably depends on the quality of the flotsam saved from the wreck. At a minimum, Members should try to cling to the 2005 freeze/ban on agricultural export subsidies. It would be good to hold onto the industrialized country cuts in bound duties on agriculture and NAMA; but I wouldn’t bank on that unless China and India give some ground unilaterally. Also, unilateral confirmation of the “indicative” increases in GATS commitments would be encouraging.

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