Jul 29, 2008

More Disturbing Reporting From Geneva

This is what Europeans will be waking up to in their Tuesday morning Financial Times

Heated public disagreements broke out on Monday between the main camps in the Doha round of trade talks, as negotiations stalled over measures permitting developing countries to protect farmers from rising imports.
Speaking after 12 hours of inconclusive talks between the main trading nations, Keith Rockwell, World Trade Organisation spokesman, said: “The situation is very tense, things are finely ­balanced and the outcome is by no means certain.”
Open disputes pitting the US against China and India, and renewed sniping from Paris at Peter Mandelson, European Union trade commissioner, had soured the mood after broad acceptance of an outline deal on Friday.
The US on Monday repeated its warning that India and China were risking the collapse of the ministerial meeting by continuing to insist on special protection to shield farmers from international competition.
Susan Schwab, US trade representative, said earlier: “There is a real threat to the delicate balance that we achieved on Friday night and I’m very concerned that it will jeopardise the outcome of this round.”
Meanwhile, the French government had declared that the deal being discussed was not acceptable and said 11 of 27 EU member states shared its reservations.
President Nicolas Sarkozy is unhappy that China and other emerging markets are not committed to liberalising entire industrial sectors, and is frustrated at a lack of progress in extending legal protection to geographical names for foods such as Parma ham.
Mr Mandelson said that talks at the meeting, which on Monday entered their eighth day, were at a “difficult and complicated” stage but that the will to succeed remained. Officials said that while the divisions were serious, it was unclear whether the disputes were simply last-minute jockeying ahead of a final deal.
“A trade deal just about to break down looks much the same from the outside as one about to succeed,” one trade diplomat said.
Pascal Lamy, the World Trade Organisation director-general, last night postponed the issue of an updated ­version of the draft agreement he had circulated on Friday, which ministers had agreed to use as a basis for discussion.
India had said it still did not agree with some of the detail, notably the terms of a mechanism allowing it to raise tariffs to protect vulnerable farmers in the face of a surge of agricultural imports.
On Sunday Mr Sarkozy, who has been at loggerheads with Mr Mandelson since France took over the presidency of the EU on July 1, demanded an immediate meeting with him.
Peter Power, Mr Mandelson’s spokesman, said the commissioner would be happy to meet Mr Sarkozy but that his negotiating commitments had to come first.
The core seven negotiating partners – Japan, Australia, Brazil, China, India, the US and the EU – had resumed their meeting last night after breaking to consult their capitals.