The collapse of negotiations among 60 Ministers of 149
member Nations of the WTO has created a crisis situation with profound
implications for the populations of both industrialised and developing
countries. By Simon Shane
The collapse of negotiations among 60 Ministers of 149 member Nations of the
WTO has created a crisis situation with profound implications for the
populations of both industrialised and developing countries.
been five years since the pivotal Doha Round which was to establish a new era in
international trade. The advancement of poor nations dependant on
agricultural-based economies was to have been stimulated by new multilateral
agreements on tariffs and subsidies.
The present impasse lends
credence to the adage "the devil is in the details", as intransigence,
obstinacy, chauvinism; self-interest and inflexibility have dominated
The issues in contention include reduction and the
ultimate lifting of import tariffs imposed on agricultural products by
industrialised nations, operating to the detriment of developing countries. The
latter in turn are accused of levying duties on manufactured goods and capital
equipment produced by the EU and North America. Agricultural support programs
applied in the US and the EU are major obstacles to agreements. Major blocs
complain that there is insufficient equity in subsidies to maintain levels of
fair competition. Quotas and improper imposition of phytosanitary regulations to
protect domestic industries are obvious impediments to free trade, the ultimate
objective of the WTO.
The Director General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy
adjourned the three-day meeting on Saturday July 1st with the intention of
reconvening later in the month.
Resolution of differences will
require concessions and major shifts from the positions adopted by the US, the
EU and the Cairns Group among others. Even if agreement is achieved by the end
of July, representatives will have to address a lengthy process of documenting
and ratifying decisions.
Legislation granting the President of the
USA to conclude trade agreements expires at the end of December 2006. Given the
prevailing political climate it is unlikely that this latitude will be extended.
It is now the responsibility of the WTO Director General to engage in serious
diplomacy to achieve a breakthrough of tectonic proportions to create a climate
favoring rapid adoption of a new comprehensive agreement predicated by Doha
millions from poverty and advancing standards of health, education and stability
in many nations will depend on retraction from preordained negotiating positions
and approaching free trade with a broader and longer term view among governments
and their WTO representatives.