Stephen Castle and Keith Bradsher reported in today’s New York Times that, “Some blamed soybeans. Others blamed cotton. And many pointed a finger at America’s election-year politics.
“But the collapse of negotiations to open world markets gave way Wednesday to resignation that a shift in the global economic hierarchy had darkened the prospect any time soon of a new accord to further open markets.”
Alan Beattie and Frances Williams reported yesterday at the Financial Times Online that, “The Doha round of global trade talks, now in its seventh year, broke up without agreement on Tuesday after nine days of tense negotiations.
“Sharp divisions between the US, India and China about access to agricultural markets in the developing world could not be bridged and the talks came to a grinding halt, scuppering efforts by Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organisation, to broker a compromise.”
Alan Beattie and Frances Williams reported yesterday at the Financial Times Online that, “Heated public disagreements broke out on Monday between the main camps in the Doha round of trade talks, as negotiations stalled over measures permitting developing countries to protect farmers from rising imports.
“Speaking after 12 hours of inconclusive talks between the main trading nations, Keith Rockwell, World Trade Organisation spokesman, said: ‘The situation is very tense, things are finely balanced and the outcome is by no means certain.’”
Stephen Castle, writing yesterday at the International Herald Tribune Online, reported that, “Disputes over farm policies of emerging Asian countries and European rules on banana imports emerged Sunday as obstacles to a possible global trade deal after a full week of talks.
“As the marathon negotiations entered their second week, the outlines of what could be an agreement to open up trade and cut farm subsidies in the United States and Europe was becoming clearer Sunday. But talks were frustrated by a series of specific issues that could still wreck the so-called Doha development round, which began seven years ago.”
On Friday, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy reported to an informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) that, “‘some convergences have been recorded but progress remains painfully slow after four days of Ministerial-level negotiation’. He said ‘the world outside will not understand if we fail to grasp this opportunity to conclude a Round that already has a great deal on the table’”.
However, as the day progressed on Friday, constructive developments appeared to emerge. An update posted at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) Online on Saturday reported that, “Despondency and bitterness gave way to guarded optimism at the WTO on Friday, as prospects for breakthrough agreements on agriculture and manufacturing trade brightened significantly during the fifth day of a high-level summit in Geneva.
“By the end of the day on 25 July, an accord at least seemed possible, which was barely the case in the morning, although negotiators cautioned that it remained very far from a done deal. At the centre of the turnaround was a package of potential compromises on several unresolved issues in the negotiations put together by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy in his consultations with ministers from seven leading trade powers, the so-called G-7.”
Reuters news reported yesterday that, “Marathon trade talks limped into another day on Friday but with little progress so far on the tortuous negotiations ministers said it would soon be time to decide whether a deal was at all possible.
“The make-or-break talks, called this week to crack the deadlock in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) long-running Doha round, have failed to move far in the intractable issues ranging from farm subsidies to car import duties.
“Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said after Thursday’s meeting ended that the talks had not broken up so far, and there was interest in continuing, but time was running out.”
Alan Beattie reported earlier this week at the Financial Times Online that, “The US on Tuesday made the first significant move in this week’s politically fraught meeting of trade ministers in Geneva, cutting its proposed ceiling for farm subsidies to $15bn a year.
“The move would reduce US farm subsidies deemed to distort international trade by about $2bn (€1.3bn, £1bn) compared with the current offer in the so-called ‘Doha round’ of trade talks, much lower than the present ceiling of about $48bn.
“But it would be comfortably above the US’s recent real spending in trade-distorting farm support, estimated at $7bn-$9bn a year.”
Stephen Castle reported in today’s New York Times that, “The European Union began crucial global trade talks Monday with an offer of reducing its farm tariffs by 60 percent — the highest figure it has yet offered — in a challenge to developing countries to make concessions.
“The offer from the European trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, was intended to ignite the stalled Doha trade round, which began seven years ago.
“Until now, Europe has offered a maximum of 54 percent tariff reductions, but Mr. Mandelson’s spokesman, Peter Power, said the higher figure could be achieved by including a range of tropical products.”
However, the Times article added that, “It remained unclear whether Europe’s intervention would break the overall stalemate, because the basic shape of the European offer remained the same.”
Stephen Castle reported in Saturday’s New York Times that, “When global trade talks ran into the night in Geneva in the summer of 2006, so many negotiators crammed into one room that they had to choose between sweltering with the windows closed or opening them and fending off swarms of insects.
“For ministers preparing for new negotiations starting Monday, the good news is that their meeting room will be air-conditioned. The bad news is that it may be even more crowded — and talks may last even longer.
“Negotiations at the Doha Development Agenda, the official name for the Doha round of trade talks, are expected to last six days, and they will determine whether, after seven years, a trade agreement is within reach.”
Lauren Etter reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “The battle over biofuels heated up Wednesday as a Paris-based intergovernmental group criticized crop-based fuels for driving up food prices and ethanol supporters counterpunched.
“The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said continued growth in biofuels production would push food prices higher and contribute to ‘food insecurity for the most vulnerable populations in developing countries,’ while having a ‘limited impact on reducing greenhouse gases and improving energy security.’”
(Note: related news articles on the OECD report are available here (AFP), here (AP), here (Reuters), and here (Bloomberg)).
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “American and European farm groups Monday said they are worried their negotiators on the Doha round of agricultural trade talks will give away too much when trade ministers meet in Geneva next week.
“Thirteen major U.S. farm groups wrote President Bush stating they are ‘alarmed’ that negotiations may sacrifice U.S. agriculture to gain access for manufactured goods and services at the Doha round trade ministers’ meeting. Oddly enough, the largest farm group in Europe issued a statement urging European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson not to sign any agreement that would make the EU more dependent on imports.
“The U.S. groups, which included the major commodity growers and milk producers, noted that in a June 1, 2006, letter to Bush they agreed they would support proposed cuts in U.S. trade-distorting domestic support for agriculture only if they were matched by equal gains in market access for U.S. farm products in developed and developing countries. But the groups said the current draft of the World Trade Organization Doha round language on agriculture would require cuts in U.S. subsidies that would be deeper than the offer the United States made in October 2005.”
Doug Smith reported on Saturday at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Online that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture could decide this week to open millions of acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands for crop production — a move that some say would be devastating for wildlife.
“CRP [statistics available here] has been called one of the most successful wildlife programs in history; some 34 million acres have been taken out of production and planted to grasses, reducing soil erosion and farm chemical runoff while providing a boon to wildlife. But its future appears uncertain.
“The ethanol boom, high commodity prices and spring flooding are causing federal officials to consider letting landowners out of CRP contracts. If that happens, grasslands could begin disappearing almost immediately as farmers begin to prepare them for crops.”
Joel Achenbach reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Under pressure from farmers, livestock producers and soaring food prices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is weighing a policy change that could lead to the plowing of millions of acres of land that had been set aside for conservation.
“At issue is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) [additional CRP statistics available here], under which the government has paid farmers to stop growing row crops, such as corn and soybeans, on 34 million acres across the country. Designed in the mid-1980s to hold down production and bolster commodity prices, the $1.8 billion-a-year program has turned into a major boon for conservation, with much of the acreage planted with perennial grasses or trees, or restored to wetlands.
“But the ethanol boom, widespread flooding and high prices for feed crops have changed the equation. Livestock producers have been howling about the high price of animal feed. Pork producers say they are losing $30 per pig.”