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WTO talks stall again

Posted by Helen Wednesday, April 20, 2005

As rumblings about debt cancellations and increased aid have rolled on, so have WTO negotiations on easing up agricultural trade around the world, a key aspect of the proposed help to developing countries.

Alas, the talks have broken down again or, if you prefer the phraseology of the head of the WTO's agricultural negotiations committee, Tim Groser:

“What we haven't got is the basis of an agreement.”
His view is that the envoys of the various countries have been “misinformed” and everything can be sorted with a bit of good will.

It is, of course, precisely the good will that is missing. The misinformation or break-down has to do with a very technical subject: how to convert into a percentage customs tariffs currently expressed in a nominal value such as euros per tonne.

It seems that agreement that is vital to the lowering of agricultural tariffs across the world was almost achieved but was scuppered at the last minute by the EU (which is the negotiator, not the member states).

The EU and net agricultural importers like Japan and Switzerland felt that the almost agreed formula would have forced them to lower tariff barriers “excessively”. This brought out the wrath of the Brazilian negotiators, though one assumes that some of the smaller and more struggling producers were not too happy either.

Well never mind. We can always send them part of what we collect in customs duty as a form of unwanted aid.