This is encouraging?

There’s been quite a bit of ‘whistling in the dark’ recent­ly about the Doha Round nego­ti­a­tions on agri­cul­ture. Hints and sug­ges­tions of alleged progress prompt­ed by the peri­pate­sis of the “US Trade Representative(report of Zoel­lick and Lamy in Mombassa)”:, the “Cairns Group(link to ABC report on recent meeting)”:, some mem­bers of the “EU Commission(Reuters report on Lamy in Washington)”: and the G-20 lead­er­ship. That none of it amounts to much is sug­gest­ed by this report in the “Bridges(link to the pub­lish­ers website)”: newslet­ter about a recent G-20 dis­cus­sion with the EU agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sion­er. bq. The EC showed no new flex­i­bil­i­ty, reit­er­at­ing its offer to elim­i­nate export sub­si­dies on prod­ucts of inter­est to devel­op­ing coun­tries, while mak­ing clear that these would not, for the moment, include sen­si­tive com­modi­ties such as sug­ar, dairy and beef. The G-20 coali­tion reit­er­at­ed its call for the elim­i­na­tion of all export sub­si­dies and for sub­stan­tive decreas­es in Blue and Amber Box sup­port. Mar­ket access was not dis­cussed in detail. This could have been issued as a “progress report” any­time in the past year. It takes lit­tle math to cal­cu­late that the EU is offer­ing almost noth­ing on export sub­si­dies if those exclu­sions hold, nor to deter­mine that no progress has been made at all on the most dif­fi­cult issue: mar­ket access. It’s typical—and so, indica­tive of noth­ing—that Reuters reports the trade Com­mis­sion­er (above) as offer­ing a menu of choic­es on export sub­si­dies that is dif­fer­ent from that offered by his agri­cul­tur­al col­league. These sto­ries tell us lit­tle more than that the diplo­mat­ic activ­i­ty is con­tin­u­ing.  They do not allay doubts about the polit­i­cal com­mit­ment of the major trad­ing pow­ers. WTO deals mat­ter not a damn at present in Washington—where the set­tled rhetoric of this elec­tion year paints trade (includ­ing ‘outsourcing&#8217)as just a lit­tle less pop­u­lar than gay mar­riage—and where USTR Zoel­lick is prob­a­bly not missed when he’s not around. Nor is Brus­sels pressed to resolve exter­nal con­flicts over its agri­cul­tur­al poli­cies. There, a con­sti­tu­tion­al mess of inde­ci­sion and dog-in-manger pow­er bro­ker­age sets the hounds of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe at each oth­ers’ throats while they wait for the expan­sion-and-or-dis­so­lu­tion of the Union when 10 new mem­ber state join in May. Will this stew of polit­i­cal dis­trac­tion, old ideas and con­stant move­ment allow new agree­ments to emerge in WTO? Very like­ly … “in the full­ness of time”. This year? I doubt it.

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