Blog: Another WTO summit...

Catherine Sleep | 18 December 2005

...another bean feast for the naysayers… As the Doha Round, now in its fifth year, decamps to Hong Kong, are the 140 member states any closer to reaching agreement on reducing trade barriers for agriculture, industry and services?

Short answer: no. As our man on the ground in Hong Kong reported, the first day of the summit saw an unholy spat between EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson and the UN World Food Programme, which he accuses of supporting American food aid programmes he considers disguised dumping schemes.

Mandelson was responding to a controversial advertisement taken out in the Financial Times, of London, which called on WTO members to adopt a liberal definition of food aid in any Doha Development Round agreement, allowing exporting nations to respond to hunger emergencies. Mandelson considered this a criticism of EU plans to keep this definition tight.

So fireworks from Day One, yet we must not abandon hope. After all, the Uruguay Round took seven and a half years, so we may only be halfway through. If we look back to the G8 summit held in Scotland this summer, that too was shrouded in controversy and apparently entrenched positions, yet it achieved a great deal, such as the US$50bn (£28.8bn) Africa aid boost and debt-cancellation deal. With a fair wind behind us we may yet see progress that satisfies all parties.

But it could take years.


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