The death of Doha - By Gustavo Capdevila
Jul 31, 2008
The death of Doha
By Gustavo Capdevila
GENEVA - The Doha Round of multilateral trade talks was brought crashing down late on Tuesday by the same discrepancies between rich and poor countries that have marked the nearly seven years of negotiations from the outset.
An insurmountable rift between the United States on one hand and China and India on the other ended the emergency conference of ministers called by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which had stretched into its ninth day of sessions.
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana interpreted the collapse of the talks as the failure of an attempt by industrialised countries to give very little and ask for a lot, which was simply not
accepted, in general terms, by the developing countries, he told Inter Press Service (IPS).
What ultimately sparked what is seen by many participants as an international disaster was an issue that is dear to developing countries: the establishment of a mechanism of special safeguards that would allow developing countries to raise tariffs on farm imports when they reach a certain level and begin to threaten the livelihoods of poor farmers
"It is unbelievable that we have failed over one issue," said Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim. "Not that the issue is not important for some countries, but many other much more intractable issues were overcome."
WTO director general Pascal Lamy said agreements had been reached on 18 issues out of a list of 20, but that the gap could not be closed on number 19.
The United States opposed the safeguard clauses, arguing that they could give rise to abuses, while China and India demanded the mechanism as a way of defending livelihoods, food security and rural development for farmers in developing countries.
The difference kept the ministers from the roughly 30 countries who met last week and the representatives of the rest of the WTO's 153 member states from reaching an agreement on the parameters for talks on agriculture and non-agricultural market access.