Tag Archives: warwick

A better way to negotiate on agriculture

Next week, at the Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al Trade in Ade­laide, Andrew Stol­er (Insti­tute Direc­tor, for­mer Deputy Direc­tor-Gen­er­al of WTO) and I are pre­sent­ing a con­fer­ence in our project on future frame­works for WTO agri­cul­ture agree­ments.

In addi­tion to our own research (some linked here) we’ve com­mis­sioned the help of lead­ing agri­cul­ture and trade pol­i­cy research cen­ters in Brazil, Chi­na, India and Indone­sia to help us exam­ine the polit­i­cal econ­o­my of the WTO agri­cul­ture nego­ti­a­tions. We’ve also ben­e­fit­ed from com­ments from sev­er­al of the world’s lead­ing ana­lysts of agri­cul­tur­al trade poli­cies; sum­ma­rized in our ‘Work in Progress’ paper pro­duced for the con­fer­ence.

We are espe­cial­ly inter­est­ed in test­ing an hypoth­e­sis first raised by the War­wick Com­mis­sion about the val­ue of so-called crit­i­cal mass agree­ments as an adjunct to—or even as one of sev­er­al sub­sti­tutes for—the WTO’s sin­gle under­tak­ing.

Below: an extract from our Work In Progress report that asks whether recent dis­cov­er­ies about the rapid growth of intra-indus­try trade in food prod­ucts sug­gests that CM agree­ments for food might be a good bet as a road to future mar­ket-open­ing agree­ments.

The unravelling trade consensus

An much bet­ter account of the real, sec­u­lar chal­lenges fac­ing the WTO than Lar­ry Sum­mers’ jum­bled col­umn (see the Side­bar) can be found in Simon Evenett’s dis­sec­tion of the fail­ure of the Doha Round, writ­ten almost a year ago. I think Simon has set the bar too high, but his call—presaging that of the War­wick Com­mis­sion—for a peri­od of reflec­tion and a new start for the WTO is and intrigu­ing account; accu­rate and care­ful­ly-argued.

The EU and US pur­sued agri­cul­tur­al trade nego­ti­at­ing strate­gies that were not polit­i­cal­ly viable in their trad­ing part­ners and their demands for tar­iff cuts on indus­tri­al prod­ucts (dri­ven up by the extent of uni­lat­er­al reform in devel­op­ing coun­tries) could not be rec­on­ciled with some of the devel­op­ment-relat­ed prin­ci- ples adopt­ed for this Round. Final­ly, what was on the nego­ti­at­ing table was small com­pared to oth­er devel­op­ments in the world econ­o­my, mak­ing the cost of say­ing “no” eas­i­er and poten- tial­ly reduc­ing the atten­tion spent on con­clud­ing the Doha Round in the first place.” from Reci­procity and the Doha Round Impasse by Simon Evenett

The collapse of the Doha Round negotiations

logo of the Doha roundThere’s no joy in hav­ing pre­dict­ed this out­come.

As explained (at some length) in my ear­li­er post, I don’t believe that the draft agree­ment on the table rep­re­sent­ed any­thing like the ‘sub­stan­tial improve­ment’ in glob­al mar­kets that was the goal of the Doha Dec­la­ra­tion that launched the talks in 2001. There were too many sta­tus excep­tions, cat­e­go­ry excep­tions, and oppor­tu­ni­ties for manip­u­la­tion.

But the repeat­ed col­lapse of these nego­ti­a­tions is a blow to con­fi­dence in the abil­i­ty of the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty and lead­er­ship to man­age glob­al com­mons like the world trad­ing sys­tem and, for that mat­ter, the glob­al envi­ron­ment and cli­mate (assum­ing the lat­ter is a man­age­able com­mons).

The world com­mu­ni­ty last agreed to open goods and ser­vices mar­kets on the basis of com­pro­mis­es struck at the end of the 1980s. The cen­ters of world wealth, eco­nom­ic and trade growth and even pop­u­la­tion growth have moved far since then. The man­age­ment of glob­al com­mons needs to move, too

Devices such as WTO’s ‘sin­gle undertaking’—that saw one huge set of com­plex rules applied in a mono­lith­ic way to all economies—no longer bridge the real dif­fer­ences in inter­ests that, for the present and for some years to come, will affect agree­ments between the worlds largest economies. Giant, poor, ‘emerg­ing’ economies such as Chi­na, India and Indone­sia are mak­ing choic­es that can­not be accom­mo­dat­ed in the frame­work WTO built in the 1980s.

We can no longer go on pre­tend­ing that with fur­ther ‘tweak­ing’ of excep­tions and con­ces­sions we can make their oblig­a­tions and needs fit into the col­lab­o­ra­tive man­age­ment frame­work. The frame­work is valu­able; but it must change or it will con­tin­ue to seize up—as it has this week—and be aban­doned.

Its time to reengi­neer the process­es of WTO.

Would ‘critical mass’ agreements in WTO be ‘fissile’ or ‘fusional’?

Here is the paper I pre­sent­ed today to the Mel­bourne Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy sem­i­nar on the Future of the Mul­ti­lat­er­al Trade Sys­tem. It asks would ‘crit­i­cal mass’ agreements—as rec­om­mend­ed by the War­wick Commission—reinforce (‘fuse’) the WTO’s Sin­gle Under­tak­ing or would they tend to pull it apart (‘fis­sion’)? I wel­come your com­ments.

Symposium: Future of the Multilateral Trade System

Mon­day, 7 April 2008 at the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mel­bourne. The team of ana­lyt­i­cal ‘heavy-hitters’—I’m sure they love being called that—who served on the War­wick Com­mis­sion will con­duct a full-day sym­po­sium on why WTO is in such a mess (or not). I’ll be speak­ing, too, on ‘crit­i­cal mass’ agree­ments and whether they’ll lead an explo­sionin the WTO. Please come…Pro­gram over the fold.

Warwick Commission report on ‘The Way Forward’ for WTO



[Updat­ed post] The Uni­ver­si­ty of War­wick man­dat­ed the Com­mis­sion to enquire into the ‘way for­ward’ for the mul­ti­lat­er­al trad­ing sys­tem. They rec­om­mend, among oth­er things, an expan­sion of ‘pluri­lat­er­al’ agree­ments among a sub-set of the Mem­bers of WTO as a way of ‘mov­ing for­ward’ and some prin­ci­ples for guid­ing their adop­tion. I agree; there is a good case to be made for these agree­ments that needs fur­ther devel­op­ment.