Jun 22, 2008

WTO: Has Time Run Out For Good?

Its all doom and gloom on the international news wires as far as the Doha negotiations are concerned

An AFP report out 6 hours ago suggests that developing countries remain unhappy at the level of market access being offered and the extent to which the big developed economies are prepared to drop subsidies

GENEVA (AFP) — Brazil and other developing countries have complained that agriculture proposals at the World Trade Organisation do not open up markets enough, dimming prospects of a deal being reached this year.
"The options on the table do not seem to fulfil the mandate for substantial improvements in market access," the G20 group of developing countries said in a statement issued late Friday, referring to proposals on the farm sector.
The G20 blamed developed countries, saying: "we have no indication of what those countries are prepared to do" in terms of cutting subsidies.

Meanwhile it is not just New Zealand's Ambo Rambo Falconer who is due to finish in Geneva (Falconer is rumoured to be the preferred option for the vacant Dep sec position at MFAT, but the lack of any announcement on this - highly unusual - is causing some to question whether this will happen. The OECD seems keen on getting Falconer back to head the Trade Division. Given Falconer's relationship with Groser this may not be a bad option). Canada's Ambo Don Stephenson, who like Falconer Chairs one of the key negotiating group chairs, has announced that he will be out of Geneva in August. This means that under the current Chair negotiations on Non-agriculture market access will have to be finished by late July.

Finally, we have the prospect of the French taking over the Presidency of The EU on 1 July (which was why there is such interest in an outcome being achieved by the end of June). What are they saying? Their Agriculture Minister says that conditions are not yet right for a balanced deal. And the big guy Sarko himself is saying quite a lot. A couple of days ago he suggested that the reason for the Irish no vote was the work being don by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson on the WTO negotiations. "It would be highly unrealistic to keep wanting to negotiate a deal where we haven't received anything on services, nothing on industry ... and which would cut farm output by 20 percent while 800 million people are dying of hunger," Sarkozy said Friday.

The Hive doesn't think that the talks will "fail" completely. Rather that they will be suspended pending further work in capitals. If McCain wins in the US they will be revived. We don't have the same confidence about Obama. We can't see his labour and environment agenda helping these negotiations much.