Mandelson sees progress, claims credit

The sur­prise for those who read Man­del­son’s Lon­don speech close­ly may be his con­fir­ma­tion of progress in the nego­ti­a­tions; hedged with plau­si­ble accu­sa­tions that the trans-Atlantic busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty has lost inter­est in the Doha Round and accom­pa­nied by the ten­den­cious claim that the Europeis ‘bankrolling’ the nego­ti­a­tions. Man­del­son has offered some ideas how to move fur­ther ahead that are much more use­ful at this point than the ‘alarm but­ton’ “gesture”: of the out-going Direc­tor Gen­er­al of WTO The cred­it claims are tedious of course but for domes­tic con­sump­tion, so let them pass: bq. Recent­ly, agree­ing to advance the nego­ti­a­tions on agri­cul­tur­al mar­ket access
on the basis of a frame­work pro­posed by G20 devel­op­ing coun­tries, the EU has
once again helped to move the Round for­ward (“EUROPA — Rapid — Press Releases(link to this excerpt)”: What Man­del­son con­firms here is “my instinct”: that there has been a change in the course of the stream of neog­ti­a­tions on agri­cul­tur­al mar­ket access; “under­ground”: at least. The for­mer­ly fixed focus of the Cairns Group on a ‘swiss-type’ for­mu­la has been aban­doned and the G‑20—that includes many Cairns group countries—has come up with a poten­tial­ly work­able frame­work for sig­nif­i­cant access reform; depend­ing on where the num­bers come out. It is pos­si­ble that the U.S., too, has begun to back away from it’s ‘swiss-25’ pro­pos­al for agri­cul­tur­al mar­ket access cuts. No deal emerged on these ideas at the Dalian Min­is­te­r­i­al meet­ing two weeks ago, how­ev­er, because Europe insists on a prob­a­bly min­i­mal­ist “Uruguay Round approach”: to the tar­iff cuts. So even if we bank these pro­pos­als by the G‑20 and Aus­tralia as progress toward com­pro­mise, we’re not yet at the point where the so-called modal­i­ties of agri­cul­tur­al reform can be agreed. That’s what WTO Direc­tor-Gen­er­al Supachai com­plained about to the Ambas­sadors in Gene­va last week when he “said”: that he was ‘push­ing the alarm but­ton’. It was a sil­ly ges­ture, in my view, since it does­n’t do any­thing more than sell a press-release. Supachai would have been bet­ter advised not to trum­pet the fail­ure of the Mem­bers to live up to yet anoth­er implau­si­ble dead­line that, as far as I can see, he made up. In his pub­lished remarks to the Trade Nego­ti­a­tions Com­mit­tee in May he said bq. “I also informed Mem­bers that from my par­tic­i­pa­tion in var­i­ous min­is­te­r­i­al gath­er­ings, it was clear that Min­is­ters were expect­ing more than just progress reports. As Chair­man of the TNC, I will have to pro­vide Mem­bers in July with a very good idea not only of the progress we have made, but also of what will have to be done to ensure a suc­cess­ful Min­is­te­r­i­al Conference.”(“WTO”: But his view of what “Min­is­ters were expect­ing” is hard­ly a com­mit­ment of the Mem­ber­ship. In fact, the 1 August 2003 “frame­work package”: that reset the direc­tion of talks after the col­lapse of the Can­cún min­is­te­r­i­al meet­ing con­tains one or two com­mit­ments for this July, but they are not com­mit­ments on agri­cul­ture modal­i­ties. There’s a good rea­son for this: the modal­i­ties and the tar­gets with­in them—the ‘how’ and the ‘how much’—are inti­mate­ly linked. A final agree­ment on modal­i­ties implies a good deal of con­fi­dence about the size of the tar­gets. For exam­ple, in a par­tic­u­lar con­fig­u­ra­tion of the tiered tar­iff cut, what the thresh­olds will be for the tiers and what the cuts will be with­in each tier. I can’t see that lev­el of detail being decid­ed before the Hong Kong Min­is­te­r­i­al, if then. Man­del­son did­n’t indulge in alarm but­tons in his Lon­don speech. Instead, after crit­i­cis­ing the lack of engage­ment from busi­ness in both Europe and the U.S., and after an obscure warn­ing that the gains from these nego­ti­a­tions would be ‘less spe­cif­ic’ than those of the Uruguay Round, he made some fea­si­ble sug­ges­tions about what is need­ed to reach an ambi­tious con­clu­sion. bq. ‘… oth­er devel­oped coun­tries, includ­ing the US, should match the inter­nal reform and nego­ti­at­ing efforts we have already made on agri­cul­tur­al sub­si­dies by sig­nal­ing their deci­sion to reform agri­cul­tur­al domes­tic sup­port and export com­pe­ti­tion. Parts of the Unit­ed States are cry­ing out for a new approach to rur­al devel­op­ment to halt rur­al decline: agri­cul­tur­al reform is the way to finance this.

Advanced devel­op­ing coun­tries in the G20 group should sig­nal new com­mit­ments on indus­tri­al tar­iffs, ser­vices and rules. That means real move­ment, for exam­ple, on their part to reduce the tar­iffs they cur­rent­ly apply, not sim­ply the upper lim­its to which they have bound them­selves in pre­vi­ous WTO negotiations—though of course we recog­nise the need for flex­i­bil­i­ties that reflect their state of devel­op­ment.

We also have to keep the poor­est WTO mem­bers on board for the nego­ti­a­tions. Many of the least-devel­oped coun­tries, and weak and vul­ner­a­ble devel­op­ing coun­tries, still fail to see the ben­e­fits that the Round could bring, and are more dri­ven by fear of los­ing their pref­er­ences and of hav­ing to adjust to chang­ing trade pat­terns that seem to ben­e­fit Chi­na more than them. This needs to be addressed. This must be a Doha devel­op­ment round in more than name.”(“EUROPA — Rapid — Press Releases(link to this excerpt)”:

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