New cry of alarm in the forums of the world Organization of the trade (WTO). While the negotiations on the Doha Agenda, launched in November 2001, have again returned to the heart of the matter after several months of torpor, the voice relay to warn against the risk of failure, at the ministerial meeting in Hong Kong from 13 to December 18.
In a letter to all members of the WTO, Tim Groser, the Chairman of the Committee negotiating on agriculture, urges them to move quickly on the agricultural dossier. Domestic subsidies to the export aid, passing through the sensitive issue of access to the market, these three issues remain deadlocked. "If we do not settle these cases (Editor's Note: before the end of July), we need to do so on the period from September to December, with the apparent likelihood that the Ministers will face a very difficult position" in Hong Kong, warns Tim Groser.
In his letter, former New Zealand Ambassador to the WTO, on several pages, book tracks it deems possible to further. Its objective is to push the WTO members to take a position to prepare a draft agreement more formal. A project which would serve as a basis for discussions at the mini-ministerial in China, on July 8.
Forcing rich countries
The proposal of the European Union made in May 2004, to waive its export subsidies had to relaunch the negotiations, stalled after the meeting in Canc˙n in 2003. This had led to the framework agreement of July 2004, held in Geneva at the headquarters of the WTO. Since then, tensions remain very strong. Indeed, the positions are radicalized again. To the requests of the European Union, the United States are, for example, still not ready to move on food aid, seen by Brussels as support for export. Furthermore, neither Brussels nor Washington make concessions on their domestic help. However, as pointed out recently the Ambassador of the Brazil to the European Union, JosÚ Alfredo Graša Lima, at a meeting organized by Ifri and the CEPII, "the reform of the common agricultural policy goes in the right direction." "But this is not sufficient."
The issue of access to the market, i.e. the decline of the customs duties applicable to agricultural products, now even more sensitive. Some large developing countries, the India in particular, live poorly the pressures on them to open their markets, while the European Union drags feet. The discussion became enmeshed in the form of reduction in customs duties to adopt. Each is the recipe that best protects its market to international competition. A real Chinese puzzle.
Agriculture is not the only folder to fail. This week in Geneva, discussions take place on the General Agreement on trade in services (GATS). Here also, the negotiation is small. Offers of liberalisation are few and little consistent. Until now, each of the members of the WTO decided only if it deemed appropriate or not to submit an offer of liberalisation of certain services. But the major developed countries, such as the European Union and the United States, with offensive interests in this field, try to vary the terms of the negotiation to force the big developing countries, including those of the g-20, already on the defensive on the decline in industrial customs duties, to liberalize a few sectors: finance, energy, environment, water, tourism, transportation.
Alarming of the forcing of the rich countries, 160 civil society organizations wrote a letter addressed, among other things, to the ambassadors to the WTO, the Director General of the institution and to the Chairmen of the negotiating groups to stop "these pressures against developing countries".