The next two weeks, in the run-up to the WTO’s General Council meeting, will probably see a lot of public theatre and private arm-twisting over the proposed ‘framework’ for concluding the negotiations—particularly the agricultural section of it. But I’m sticking to “my view”:http://www.petergallagher.com.au/textpattern/index.php?event=article&step=edit&ID=290 that the rather modest ideas in the “current text”:http://www.petergallagher.com.au/textpattern/index.php?event=article&step=edit&ID=286 on agriculture will survive largely intact. In typically haughty style, President Chirac dismissed the entire framework (as usual, for “Europe’s interests” please read “France’s interests”): bq. “This proposal is profoundly unbalanced to the detriment of the interests of the European Union,” Chirac said.(“UPI”:http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20040722-010809-6982r) But his Trade Minister, François Loos, translated this into a negotiable objection bq. “We are asking for full parallelism to be restored,” wrote French Trade Minister Francois Loos in the newspaper Le Figaro Thursday. “If the Americans agree to get rid of their credits it would be a promising start.” (“UPI”:http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20040722-010809-6982r) Brazil, on behalf of the G-20, is also manoeuvring on the text. In an apparent reference to the proposal that industrialized countries should have the ‘flexibilty’ to continue to protect their most highly protected (‘sensitive’)markets the Brazilians are arguing that bq. ” …there is a clear imbalance between certain major points that are guaranteed at the outset for developed countries and other points of fundamental importance for developing countries.” (“AFP”:http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1518&ncid=1518&e=8&u=/afp/20040722/bs_afp/wto_trade_talks_040722175524) The text proposed by the Chairman of the negotiating group—NZ Ambassador Tim Grosser—does not attempt to fully define, at this stage, the ‘flexibilty’ to be available to developing countries. On the whole, these statements should probably be read as positioning for later negotiation rather than rejection of the framework. But they amount to an attack, from two flanks, on the current draft framework which is already rather shaky and vague on key points, particularly on market access. Whether the framework can survive these assaults may now depend on where the US comes out on the current text. So far it has made no public statement.
Peter Gallagher is a leading Australian consultant on trade and public policy.[bio].
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