Monday, October 30, 2006

Gloomy prognosis on Doha Round

Recent conventional wisdom has been that the Doha Round talks will get under way once the US elections are out of the way with a window of opportunity between then and the spring. After then it would be too late to get an agreement through Congress using trade promotion authority (once known as fast track) although a few months' extension might be possible.

However, the chair of the agriculture negotiations, Crawford Falconer, has now said that he thinks the Doha Round will fail. He still thinks that both the US and the EU have room within their negotiating mandates to improve their offers on reducing farm support, but he suggested that the political will was missing on both sides. There was still the possibility of finding 'an outcome that would work and one that would make a difference', but time was running out.

Falconer's intervention could be a ploy to encourage a focus on the issues and to offset overly optimistic pronouncements by politicians. Nevertheless, it is easy to fall into the comforting belief that, as happened in the Uruguay Round, it will be 'all right on the night'. This time it may not be and the consequences for agricultural trade and further policy reform would be serious.

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