Sunday, August 01, 2004

Doha Round - 1 -- Breakthru in Geneva?

The WTO has at long last adopted a negotiating agenda that has the EU's CAP as a central item. Yes, it will take decades for the EU, US, Japan et al to rationalize their agricultural sectors. But the CAP is finally on the agenda. And that's sprung free the rest of the Doha process. So trade agreements haven't been delayed for an additional 2-5 years. That's really good news for the developing world. Trade is the only way that significant dents can be made in the billions of people who still live in abject poverty.

The FT has a good overview which stresses the "Real trade negotiations still lie ahead." If the negotiators had failed to reach agreement this weekend, the impact on the WTO was widely expected to be disasterous:

That could have prompted the US whose chief trade official, Robert Zoellick, has led recent efforts to revive the talks to withdraw from an active role in the organisation, and unleashed a barrage of legal challenges, overloading the WTO’s disputes settlement tribunals.

Many observers think failure would also have spurred a worldwide stampede into discriminatory bilateral and regional trade deals, undermining multilateral disciplines, fragmenting the global market and raising the costs of doing business across borders. That those risks have been averted, at least for now, is due partly to governments’ collective fear of failure. The outcome also owes much to the efforts of Mr Zoellick, Pascal Lamy, EU trade commissioner, and Celso Amorim, Brazil’s foreign minister. Setting aside past disagreements, they jointly drove the talks forward.

Mr Lamy and Mr Zoellick both badly wanted a success in Geneva before they leave office in a few months. ‘ Although France had sought the right to block the deal, claiming it was contrary to European interests, Mr Lamy and an overwhelming majority of other EU governments squashed its objections.


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