Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Can Doha lite succeed?

As trade ministers gather in Bali the question is can a 'Doha lite' agreement be concluded to rescue something from the Doha Round of trade negotiations? Or will agreement once again be foiled by arguments over agriculture?

The developing world will still want the US and the EU to stop export subsidies for their farmers, although those paid out by the EU have shrunk away to a fraction of what they were: Export subsidies . Cotton farmers in Africa will still demand better access to the American market and a reduction in domestic subsidies. Sugar cane growers in Australia and Brazil also want better access for their products.

However, the real sticking point could be Indian insistence on rewriting the rules of the WTO on food security programmes. A 'peace clause' was agreed, intended to give another four years to negotiators to come up with new WTO rules for farm subsidies and the prices paid for staples bought as part of government programmes to supply food to the poor. 70 per cent of the Indian population is covered by such programmes which have recently been extended by legislation and there is a general election due next year. It now appears that India wants the clause to be permanent or at least apply until a final deal is concluded.

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