February 27, 2020

GMF Podcasts- “Trade Leaders Optimistic About Doha Deal”

Categories: Doha / Trade

Note: I will be traveling on Wednesday (28th) to Washington, D.C. to attend the U.S Department of Agriculture’s 2007 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Assuming no technical difficulties, the regular FarmPolicy News Summary will return Thursday morning, March 1.

Jack Thurston, a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, recently conducted a series of interviews with leading stakeholders from government, business, World Trade Organizaiton member governments, and NGOs regarding the Doha Development Round negotiations of the WTO.

Mr. Thurston conducted these nine interviews, including a conversation with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, at a recent retreat, “Realizing the Doha Development Agenda as if the Future Mattered.” The retreat was held in Salzburg, Austria, from February 16-20 and was convened by three non-profit foundations with global missions: theWilliam and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Salzburg Seminar.

A news release from earlier this week summarized the retreat by noting that, “Participants came away from the retreat more optimistic about the prospects of obtaining a Doha agreement. Participants from Africa, Brazil, Europe, India, and the United States all said their leaders understand the economic and geopolitical importance of reaching a multilateral trade agreement, but they are not doing enough to convince their constituents back home. Participants departed with a commitment to return home to push their governments for a strong and timely conclusion to the trade talks, to talk to their citizens about the importance of a Doha agreement, and to build the necessary coalitions among diverse stakeholders to pass a final Doha agreement.”

All of the audio interviews conducted by Mr. Thurston can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here. The first interview, which was done on February 16, was with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and can be downloaded by clicking here (MP3).

In part, DG Lamy indicated that a “political side” of the negotiations has contributed to the difficulty of concluding the Doha talks. “Parliaments need to ratify the conclusion of these agreements, and Parliaments are places where interests and lobbies have their say, and in places like Washington or Brussels or Delhi, [there is] no way you can sort of clinch a deal without making sure that your Parliament, your political parties, your constituencies will accept it when they will have to ratify it.

“Most WTO Members are democracies, and democracies don’t always work with numbers, they also work with politics and that is the difficult side of it, especially when agriculture holds such a key position in the unlocking of the conclusion of the Round,” Lamy said.

DG Lamy went on to note that the politics of trade are not the same as they were ten or fifteen years ago, globalization has made people in some ways more “trade reluctant.”

Mr. Thurston also explored the consequences of success and the consequences of failure of the Doha Round with the WTO leader.

On February 20, Mr. Thurston spoke with Jim Kolbe, a former Republican Congressman from Arizona who is now a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund. Also joining this conversation was Linda Menghetti, a former chief minority staff counsel to the Senate Finance Committee. This interview focused on the role being played by the US Congress in the end game of the Doha Round. To listen, just click here (MP3).

With respect to the political atmosphere on trade in the U.S., Mr. Kolbe stated that, “This is going to be a very tough sell in Congress.” Nonetheless, Mr. Kolbe is encouraged by the fact that the possibility of agreement exists, “when six months ago the talks were suspended and it didn’t seem as though we were going to see any agreement at all.”

Mr Kolbe also provided an excellent explanation of the importance of trade promotion authority. Both Mr. Kolbe and Ms. Menghetti pointed out that there are a lot of potential points of interest for Congressional members, districts and states in the Doha talks because they are so broad-based. Compared to a bi-lateral trade deal with one country, the Doha talks do provide for the opportunity for more Congressional members to have a constituent interest and reason for supporting the passage of a potential deal.

As noted previously, the other seven interviews conducted with Mr. Thurston can be downloaded from this webpage.

In addition to audio interviews, valuable background and briefing documents regarding the Doha talks have also been posted. Of particular interest: a briefing document, entitled, “The Doha Round Agriculture Negotiations: An Overview;” an easy to read bullet point summary, entitled, “Doha Round Overview – ‘What’s on the Table;’” and this briefing paper, “Concluding the Doha Round – The Reality Check.”

-Keith Good

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Alan Beattie
, writing in today’s Financial Times, reported that, “Private conversations among leading countries in the so-called ‘Doha round’ of global trade talks have produced constructive engagement but no broad agreement yet, participants say.

“Top negotiators from some of the leading countries in the talks including the European Union, the US, India and Brazil met last week in London to continue a series of bilateral conversations, particularly about the highly sensitive farm talks. Talks have centred on different categories of exemptions to the cuts in agricultural tariffs that will be permitted to rich and poor countries.

Peter Mandelson, European trade commissioner, yesterday told the FT: ‘What came out of last week’s senior officials’ meetings is a clear turning point in the negotiations. We now have a better negotiating relationship between the majors.’”