This week our eyes will never be to far away from Cancun, and the forthcoming WTO ministerial conference which begins on Wednesday and which will try to advance negotiations in the so-called 'Doha Round'. The Washington Times today carries an interview with Supachai Panitchpakdi, economist and former deputy prime minister of Thailand. In my book there are two key areas to keep a careful eye on: agriculture and services:
Q: Many poor, developing countries are saying [that] for them to make any movement in areas of interest to rich countries, they want to see substantial movement in Cancun on agriculture — otherwise forget about movement in the other areas of interest to rich countries, and specifically, the new issues such as trade and investment, trade facilitation, transparency in government procurement, and [trade] and competition policy. Do you think that message has gotten through to key capitals like Brussels, Washington and Tokyo?
A: Having had some conversations in the last few weeks and last few days with people around the world, I have the feeling that key capitals of developed countries are mindful of the primacy of agricultural reform, the sign of which is the joint paper that has been produced by the [European Union] and [United States].
Of course, it's not something accepted at the moment. But it's something that we worked on for years in the Uruguay Round [1986-1994] before there could be an agreement between the U.S. and the EU on agriculture. Now we have that, and although I don't think it's the end of our discussion, at least it sends out the kind of signals — they reflect in their joint paper the need for agriculture to be treated upfront. And now that the group of developing countries — they call themselves the Group of 20, and that includes China, Brazil, India and South Africa — I think they are proposing something in response to that paper. ...
It shows that at least here, we have back-and-forth negotiations. People try to recategorize positions, moving their positions. This augurs well for Cancun. We're not there yet, but at least we have identified at least four or five areas of differences, from which we can start our negotiations successfully, fruitfully, in Cancun.
Source: Washington Post