The latest breakdown in talks between US, EU, Brazil and India in Potsdam, Germany yesterday, is good news for democracy and the developing world.
Farcical Multilateral Process
The process was inherently undemocratic. A G4 agreement would have been brought back to Geneva, weaved into the Chair’s texts and the entire membership would have been given very short notice and asked to adopt those texts quickly in order to ‘save’ the multilateral system. According to Aileen Kwa of Focus on the Global South, “The ‘multilateral’ process was simply farcical. However, we are not out of the danger zone. The Director General is now suggesting that Chairs come up with their own”compromise“texts. Crawford Falconer’s agriculture”Challenge“papers were widely criticized as pandering to the concerns of the US and EU, whilst riding rough shod over developing countries’ concerns. If this is to be repeated in his draft modalities, it will put developing countries in a highly disadvantaged position in the negotiations. The Chairs and Pascal Lamy forget that this is not just a Geneva game. Lives are at stake when agriculture and industries are forced to liberalise, and the impact is hardest on the poor”.
Time of Reckoning for Kamal Nath
Speaking from New Delhi, SP Shukla, of the Indian Peoples Campaign Against the WTO, said,
“This is in a way time of reckoning for Kamal Nath. His dexterity in trying to hunt with the hound and run with the hare at the same time seems to have reached the dead end. Last time around in July 06 he could escape the dilemma because of the differences between US and EU on agriculture grounded the G-6. He earned praise from Mandelson for his”flexibility“. And he claimed back home that his valiant stand in favour of the Indian peasantry led to the deadlock. Now he is asked to encash his”flexibility“(which is a known euphemism for meekly agreeing to open both industrial and agricultural markets to US and EU). However, he cannot do so, for fear of the political backlash at home, what with the state elections results in Punjab and UP, and the impending forthcoming General Elections in 2009. And he has now become, in less than a year, too rigid in the eyes of his interlocutors from EU and US! What is worse, he and his colleague from Brazil have been reminded politely by G-90 plus that the two should not presume to represent the developing countries. It is a clear case of falling between the two stools.”The Indian elite’s dream of getting into the rich club gets shattered, as it must, when the cold hand of the reality of the agrarian rural India touches it. Will the Indian negotiators learn their lesson even at this late stage?"
No Development in the Doha Round
The ‘promise’ of development was never sincere. Centered on market access, the Round simply cannot deliver development to the poorest countries. It is highly unlikely that the US and EU will tomorrow relent in their unreasonable market access demands.
Developing countries also lose nothing in the area of agriculture. Says Kwa, “US and EU have no desire to make real cuts on agricultural domestic supports. Domestically, it is unthinkable. Any cuts announced, including in export subsidies, are artificial. Supports, including export subsidies are being shifted into the Green Box, and both the US and EU are giving themselves huge”water“in the so-called trade distorting domestic supports. Developing countries will therefore lose nothing if we disband the Round today. In fact, we will make gains - we would have retained our ability to protect our borders against unfair and distorted trade”.
Focus on the Global South