Friday, July 28, 2006

All Doha, All the time..

To full appreciate the impact of the Doha failure and the perspective of the rest of the world, consider these reports from other cultures like:
The western nations annually spend on agriculture subsidy a staggering sum of more than $360 billion -- about the total gross national product of six Bangladeshes. In terms of per capita income in this country, this huge amount is equivalent to the income of $840 million in a world having about 6500 million people. They pay three dollars a day in subsidy for every cow while millions of people in the poor countries having agricultural potentials live on less than one dollar a day per head. Apparently, the policy suggests that cows are superior to poor human beings. The withdrawal of agriculture subsidy in the rich countries, which would make them greatly dependent on food import, could generate prosperity in the poor countries by taking off the lid on harnessing their agricultural potentials. But the bar against, as said earlier, is the rich nations' consideration of their national security.
So where does that leave Africa? Nowhere, with agricultural exports remaining largely sidelined by high farm subsidies in the developed world, it said.

The paper said the economic impact of the current failure would not be felt immediately, but the targets of eliminating trade distorting subsidies and realizing tariff free and quota free market access for least developed countries would obviously be affected.

Failure would also send out a strong negative signal for the future of the world economy and the danger of a resurgence of protectionism at a time when the pace of globalization is weighing heavily on the social and economic fabric of many countries and when geopolitical instability is on the rise, the paper said.

The newspaper said, perhaps this is time to implement WTO reforms as the body has become yet another tool for the EU and the U.S. to bully the developing world and assert their dominance.

So what's next? Suspending the Doha Round does not mean the end of the WTO. There is still a strong development case for a multilateral system, even if it is as flawed as that of the WTO. Australia and other richer countries should resist the temptation to try to get what they want through a series of bilateral trade agreements. Apart from creating complex and incoherent trade relationships, these deals usually involve developing countries losing more than they gain because of their weak negotiating position.

If the talks are to be resurrected, trade negotiators need a complete change of thinking. The US and EU should only come back to the table after doing their homework; they need to make a commitment to stop dumping their agricultural surpluses. The US, EU and Australia must acknowledge the special need of developing countries for flexibility over how and when they open up their markets.

In the meantime, the US and EU should at least respect subsidy rules — or, if they continue to break them, accept that they will face litigation in the WTO court. They must not abandon the multilateral system and should refrain from arm-twisting developing countries into bilateral trade agreements that are even more damaging than those on the table in Geneva. They should use their time to reopen the debate on institutional reform of the WTO.

However minor, such gains would at least give the world's poorest countries something to show for five years of hard slog in the negotiating chamber.

No comments: