OPINION: Walk out should be a wake-up call for real reform
EU/US push of Singapore issues drives developing countries out of Cancun

 

CANCUN, Mexico, September 14, 2003: minsterial reaction from IATP: An announcement today that World Trade Organization (WTO) could not reach agreement on new trade rules represents a real breakdown in the negotiating process. The talks fell apart because of objections by developing countries to the Singapore issues and the direction of the agriculture negotiations - as the U.S. and EU attempted to push an aggressive agenda.

“The collapse of the talks shows the fragility of the current global trading system,” said Shefali Sharma, Director of the Trade Information Project at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “We cannot continue with a system that primarily benefits the interests of multinational corporations and doesn’t address the serious concerns of farmers, workers and people around the world. Developing countries made clear they did not want to expand the jurisdiction of the WTO into the Singapore issues and they wanted something done to address agricultural dumping which is hurting their farmers. The EU and U.S. tried to override these serious concerns – and now the WTO is paying the price.”

“There is the potential for a real positive outcome following this collapse in Cancun. Now we may get real negotiations on the difficult issues confronting the global trading system,” said Mark Ritchie, President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “It is clear that we are seeing a shift in the power dynamic at the WTO. No longer are developing countries going to roll over for the U.S. and EU – particularly on issues of vital importance to them. How the WTO responds as an institution to this breakdown over the next few months will be critical. Will it transform the negotiating process to better reflect the positions of all WTO members – or will it continue down a blind path where it is very difficult to gain the support and consensus of all WTO members. ”

“Sadly, this breakdown was entirely predictable,” said Sharma. “It’s been apparent in Geneva throughout the negotiations that frustration was building among developing countries over a series of exclusive Green Rooms and Mini-Ministerials. Draft texts routinely excluded their positions. It’s not surprising that in Cancun – developing countries finally said enough is enough. Hopefully, this will result in the establishment of clear negotiating procedures and a more transparent system.”

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has been critical of the WTO negotiating process throughout the Doha Round, and has written a white paper on the subject – WTO Decision-making: A Broken Process. - available at www.tradeobservatory.org.