WTO Meeting: Who Cares?

The usual suspects are gathering this week in Geneva for another "feel good" opportunity to look like they care about the well being of the rest of the world.

From The International Herald Tribune:

Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organization, has called a week-long meeting of ministers next month aimed at reaching a breakthrough deal on liberalizing global trade, officials and diplomats said Wednesday.

Since the so-called Doha trade round was started in 2001, talks have repeatedly become deadlocked because of disagreements between major trading powers like the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India.

The upcoming meeting is scheduled to be held over five days at WTO headquarters in Geneva starting July 21, with the goal of agreeing to specific tariff and subsidy cuts. Up to 40 countries are expected to attend.

Sean Spicer, the assistant U.S. trade representative, warned that important differences still remained between trading partners on the crucial areas of agriculture industrial goods and services, the areas on which the talks would focus.

But Spicer still said there was "an opportunity for success" over the coming weeks if other countries "work with the same spirit" and "make the same intensive efforts" as the United States.

Lets be clear: The United States only cares about providing an "opportunity for success" for itselft. This meeting is a waste of time, and nothing will be accomplished on behalf of the developing world as far as trade policy is concerned.

But lets pretend for a moment that the United States and the rest of the industrialized world does want to engage in fair trade:

From Oxfam America:

1) Act first. The US should put a new offer on the table that will reform US farm programs and cut real spending on agricultural subsidies that distort global trade. It should include tighter disciplines on the WTO "box" system of classifying trade-distorting subsidies in order to eliminate loopholes that permit unjustified spending. The 2008 Farm Bill was a step backward in this regard. The US should do much more to allow developing countries to enhance their domestic food production, and should do so before demanding concessions from developing countries.

2) Implement the WTO Brazil Cotton Case ruling. The WTO dispute body has ruled repeatedly that US cotton subsidies violate WTO law. Continued refusal to implement the ruling undermines the credibility of the US and, ultimately, the WTO itself as a forum for resolving trade disputes. The US must commit to reforming or reclassifying the direct payment program, reforming and effectively limiting trade-distorting cotton subsidies, repealing the new Step 2 Program, and fully reforming US export credit guarantee programs.

3) Stop demanding harsh reciprocity from poor countries. This is the WTO's Doha Development Round, not the Doha tit-for-tat round. Rich countries must stop demanding harsh concessions from developing countries in agricultural market access, nonagricultural market access, and services, especially when rich countries are unwilling to make real reforms to their agricultural support programs. Developing countries must retain the right to safeguard vulnerable livelihoods and promote development and food security.

4) Reform food aid. Stronger disciplines are needed at the WTO to ensure that food aid does not hurt developing country farmers or local markets. The US food aid program is an obstacle to reform at the WTO. While some minor advances were made in the new Farm Bill to use some funds for local and regional purchases, the US must go further at the WTO and move to cash food aid except in emergency cases in which there are shortages and in-kind donations from the US are most appropriate.



At Monday, July 21, 2008 3:16:00 PM, Blogger Mike Brady said...

There needs to be joined-up thinking in development of WTO agreements. The impact of policies on food security shows that human rights norms that have already been agreed are not being respected. The WTO and other International Governmental Organisations, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, arguably have a responsibility in international law (through their member states) to respect these norms. Current case studies from Cambodia and Haiti show how this has not happened. There is a danger that WTO will once again ignore human rights obligations as nations put their own economic interests first. For further information on this and the Simultaneous Policy campaign, which aims to overcome the fear of economic disadvantage, see:http://globaljusticeideas.blogspot.com/2008/07/cambodia-haiti-food-security.html


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