Jul 3, 2008

Is the timeframe for the WTO Ministerial too tight?

This article from the Irish Independent suggests that it might be...

Sources close to the talks maintained that significant differences would have to be overcome during the next three weeks if the framework for a deal was to be concluded.
There was general surprise that Mr Lamy moved last week to convene the ministerial meeting. It was generally accepted that such a gathering would only be summoned once a final deal was within sight.
Little progress has been made so far on some of the most difficult issues relating to agriculture, manufacturing and services, and these will have to be agreed if the summit later this month is to have any hope of success.
It is expected that next week's discussion paper on agriculture will deal with the treatment of sensitive products and also offer specific safeguard clauses for butter and sheep meat.
Both of these areas have proven contentious in the discussions to date.
Despite recent comments from the British prime minister,
Gordon Brown, that a trade agreement was within "touching distance", Irish commentators are convinced that the timeframe for concluding a deal is too tight, given the differences that exist.
They maintained that the passing of the
US Farm Bill had undermined the agriculture talks, while French and German opposition to the proposals had grown over the last three months.
Meanwhile, a
Department of Agriculture official has rejected suggestions that a WTO deal could be agreed solely for agriculture.
He insisted that any proposed trade agreement would have to encompass all the strands of the talks and that agriculture could not be singled out from that process.