Tag Archives: critical mass

Nothing to see here

Is there any point in con­tin­u­ing to puz­zle over trade pol­i­cy and agree­ments? Do they real­ly make any dif­fer­ence to any­thing? It seems they’ve become too hard to put togeth­er; but does that _matter_? Since [about 2001][1], I’ve been writ­ing a weblog analysing inter­na­tion­al trade agree­ments, nation­al trade poli­cies and the post-WWII “sys­tem” of gov­ern­ment […]

Critical Mass” on US business agenda

The US Nation­al For­eign Trade Coun­cil has released a short paper (PDF file) endors­ing a “crit­i­cal mass” (CM) approach to new WTO-asso­­ci­at­ed trade agree­ments, with­out, how­ev­er, pro­duc­ing any new ideas on how to accom­plish this in the cur­rent mul­ti­lat­er­al trade frame­work. A top U.S. busi­ness group, frus­trat­ed with years of stale­mate in world trade talks, […]

Eminent call-girls

Aaargh! Yet anoth­er knee-jerk call in the Finan­cial Times for “wise” men (and women) to guide WTO out of it’s slough. Third, in lieu of the WTO min­is­te­r­i­al, a group of emi­nent peo­ple should be appoint­ed with the task find­ing a way out of the cur­rent dol­drums and out­lin­ing future cours­es of action. The head […]

WTO embraces the irresistible

WTO’s annu­al World Trade Report for 2011 sig­nals a turn­ing-point for the soon-to-be-Doha-less Orga­ni­za­tion. It attempts to pro­vide a ratio­nale for aban­don­ing WTO’s half-hos­tile stand-off with the more dynam­ic uni­verse of pref­er­en­tial trade agree­ments (PTAs) and for embrac­ing PTAs instead. Or, as the sub­ti­tle of the report puts it, in EU-ese, a ratio­nale for mov­ing […]

Let’s end WTO’s Doha agony

Just in … some old news from Gene­va:

The WTO’s week-long “stock­tak­ing” of the Doha Round trade talks end­ed on Fri­day with a whim­per, not a bang. The much-tout­ed goal of con­clud­ing the nego­ti­a­tions toward a glob­al trade deal before the end of 2010 — an objec­tive laid out byheads of state last year — was qui­et­ly set aside, as offi­cials acknowl­edged that polit­i­cal hur­dles con­tin­ue to block progress in the round, much as they have for the past 18 months … As the nego­ti­a­tions stum­ble along with no end in sight, some observers – and even some del­e­gates, when speak­ing pri­vate­ly – have said that it might be time to begin think­ing about putting the Doha talks on hold for awhile, or even aban­don­ing them alto­geth­er.” Extract from Bridges newslet­ter (ICTSD)

Sure­ly, by now, it’s obvi­ous (even in Gene­va) that the tor­tured ‘sin­gle under­tak­ing’ struc­ture of the pro­posed Doha deal—designed to accom­mo­date every pol­i­cy option in the spec­trum from less pro­tec­tion to more pro­tec­tion by way of elab­o­rate exclu­sions, excep­tions and disguises—is just not going to fly.

Let those who want to open mar­kets find a suf­fi­cient num­ber of trade part­ners to cre­ate a globe-span­ning ‘free trade zone’ for trad­ed agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts. Once they dis­cov­er a ‘zone’ that pro­vides a mer­can­tilist basis for lib­er­al­iza­tion among the par­tic­i­pants, let them form it with­out exclud­ing oth­ers (to pre­serve non-dis­crim­i­na­tion in trade).

In our project on Alter­na­tive Frame­works for Agri­cul­ture Nego­ti­a­tions for the Aus­tralian Rur­al Research and Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, Andrew Stol­er and I demon­strat­ed that at such a free-trade zone can work. A ‘crit­i­cal mass’ agree­ment among 35-or-so WTO mem­bers would be both tech­ni­cal­ly and eco­nom­i­cal­ly fea­si­ble and would deliv­er results com­pa­ra­ble to the pro­posed Doha deal on agri­cul­ture.

I’ve pre­pared a pre-print (not for cita­tion, please) of our full report to the RIRDC, that you can grab here. As well as our main con­clu­sions, the doc­u­ments con­tains papers on the eco­nom­ic mod­el­ing; the con­tri­bu­tions from research insti­tu­tions from Brazil, Chi­na, India and Indone­sia; the results of the Glob­al Trade Opin­ion Polls, and; ana­lyt­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions from trade lumi­nar­ies such as Kym Ander­son (Uni­ver­si­ty of Ade­laide), Simon Evenett (Uni­ver­si­ty of St Gallen), Ambas­sador Car­los Perez del Castil­lo (For­mer Chair­man, WTO Gen­er­al Coun­cil), Sal­lie James (Cato Insti­tute), Patrick Low (Chief Econ­o­mist of WTO), Tim Josling (Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty), Peter Lloyd (Uni­ver­si­ty of Mel­bourne), Razeen Sal­ly and Valentin Zahrnt (ECIPE), and Alan Win­ters (Uni­ver­si­ty of Sus­sex).

U.S. looks for a ‘critical mass’ climate deal

There is absolute­ly noth­ing new in U.S. exas­per­a­tion with the Unit­ed Nations and its overblown process­es. This state­ment from the deputy U.S. cli­mate envoy recalls the respons­es of thou­sands of tech­nocrats exposed for the first time to the diplo­mat­ic morass; for decades, we’ve heard some­thing sim­i­lar from every new Admin­is­tra­tion.

Per­sh­ing said the flaws in the UN process, which demands con­sen­sus among the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, were exposed at Copen­hagen. ‘The meet­ing itself was at best chaot­ic,’ he said, in a talk at the Cen­tre for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton. ‘We met most­ly overnight. It seemed like we didn’t sleep for two weeks. It seemed a fun­ny way to do things, and it showed.’ ” Extract from UN should be side­lined in future cli­mate talks, says Oba­ma offi­cial | The Guardian

What is new is that the so-called BASIC countries—giant, rapid­ly grow­ing but poor economies—have become the nec­es­sary inter­locu­tors of the USA and, per­force, for Europe, Japan and the rest of the twen­ty-some­thing coun­tries that have com­mit­ted to sign the ‘pledge’ on emis­sions cuts by 31 Jan­u­ary this year.

Per­sh­ing goes on to say that he’s look­ing for a ‘crit­i­cal mass’ alter­na­tive:

[He] indi­cat­ed the focus would be nar­row­er in scope than the UN’s all-inclu­sive approach. “We expect there will be sig­nif­i­cant actions record­ed by major coun­tries,” he said. “We are not real­ly wor­ried what Chad does. We are not real­ly wor­ried about what Haiti says it is going to do about green­house gas emis­sions. ”

Multilateralism not a ‘single undertaking’

More commentary—this time from the Pres­i­dent of the U.S. Coun­cil on For­eign Relations—on the sig­nif­i­cance of the Copen­hagen meet­ing as one of the first signs of what­ev­er-it-turns-out-to-be that fol­lows the pax atlanti­ca

Mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism in the 21st cen­tu­ry is, like the cen­tu­ry itself, like­ly to be more flu­id and, at times, messy than what we are used to.” Extract from Richard Haass in the Finan­cial Times

Haass pro­vides three pos­si­ble new con­for­ma­tions of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism for the 21st cen­tu­ry that seem plau­si­ble to me: ‘region­al­ism’ as in region­al trade agree­ments; ‘func­tion­al’ multilateralism—by which he means ‘coali­tions of the will­ing’ or the ‘crit­i­cal mass’ agree­ments that have been at the core of my recent work on agri­cul­tur­al trade agree­ments—and; ‘infor­mal’ mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism com­pris­ing exec­u­tive agree­ments on col­lab­o­ra­tion that fall some way short of treaties.

What these forms have in com­mon, that dis­tin­guish­es them from the form of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism embod­ied in WTO, is that they are not ‘sin­gle under­tak­ing’ agree­ments of the kind that has so crip­pled progress in the Doha Round of nego­ti­a­tions. It’s past time that the WTO mem­ber gov­ern­ments got that idea.