WTO agriculture negotiations: gloom abounds

Flop in July; fail (pos­si­bly) in Sep­tem­ber”. That seems to be the prog­no­sis from the FT and Reuters reports out of Gene­va fol­low­ing the Heads of Del­e­ga­tion meet­ing Tues­day. It’s what I “expect­ed to hear”:http://www.inquit.com/article/452/how-the-us-and-ec-summed-up-dalian. There’s one more step before the sum­mer break in Gene­va. I’m not look­ing for a “break­through” but I sus­pect that reports to the Trade Nego­ti­a­tions Com­mit­tee (TNC) on Thurs­day (Gene­va time) will put a less melo­dra­mat­ic spin on the state of play Reuters (Richard Wadding­ton) pro­vides a sense of the dis­ap­point­ment of the nego­tia­tors bq. “I think that it is over. Every­thing has fin­ished for this week,” said Clodoal­do Hugueney, Brazil’s chief trade nego­tia­tor, about the farm talks. “The G20 tried,” he said, refer­ring to the devel­op­ing coun­try alliance of which Brazil is coor­di­na­tor. “We put for­ward con­crete pro­pos­als, but unfor­tu­nate­ly it could not cre­ate the cli­mate to move for­ward,” he said.(“Reuters”:http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticleSearch.aspx?storyID=244019+26-Jul-2005+RTRS) The FT uses an Oxfam assess­ment to add col­or its report bq. Talks on lib­er­al­is­ing farm trade came to a halt with­out agree­ment at the World Trade Organ­i­sa­tion on Tues­day, slash­ing almost to noth­ing the already slim chances of a big break­through in the Doha round of glob­al trade nego­ti­a­tions by the autumn … Unless there was a change of heart in the autumn, “we can already con­clude that the Doha round has been a fail­ure,” said Céline Charve­ri­at, head of Oxfam’s trade cam­paign. (“FT”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/6a559372-fe06-11d9-a289-00000e2511c8,i_rssPage=9d5b9ebe-c8bc-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html) Stand­ing close enough to smell the grease-paint is very like­ly to add to the col­or of reports and the height­ened sense of dra­ma. But this is a three-ring cir­cus with 148 per­form­ers; too big to see as a whole unless you climb up into the bleach­ers. The min­i­mal­ism of the EU (and Japan, Switzer­land, Nor­way etc) on agri­cul­tur­al mar­ket access; the dis­trac­tion of the U.S. by the CAFTA debates and its attempts to cov­er domes­tic sub­si­dies by ‘box shift­ing’ (the EU is no bet­ter on this score); the lack of sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ment from some large devel­op­ing coun­tries to their own access reform: these are all seri­ous bar­ri­ers to the ‘sub­stan­tial reform’ sought by gov­ern­ments when they launched these nego­ti­a­tions in Doha. It’s a dis­ap­point­ment that the Chairman’s “call”:http://www.inquit.com/article/444/grosser-status-report-on-wto-agriculture-negotiations for changes in these areas has not been act­ed on. But none of these fac­tors is sur­pris­ing or even new and most of them appear in relief in the light of progress that _has been made in agri­cul­ture: # The poten­tial, defined last year, to elim­i­nate export sub­si­dies includ­ing export cred­its
# The like­ly ear­ly elim­i­na­tion of some of the most egre­gious U.S. domes­tic sup­ports (on cot­ton) as a result of a WTO dis­pute deci­sion just months ago
# The emer­gence since 2003 of a devel­op­ing coun­try lead­er­ship propos­ing a fea­si­ble frame­work for reform
# The begin­nings (since ear­ly 2005) of a new approach to food aid that could see it less taint­ed by com­mer­cial dis­pos­al and cor­rup­tion I’m expect­ing to see a more bal­anced per­spec­tive on the cur­rent sta­tus of the negotiations—especially those on agriculture—emerge from the TNC lat­er this week.

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