World Trade Organization Agriculture Chair Crawford Falconer has released a paper detailing his thoughts on the Doha Round of global trade talks when they collapsed in Geneva last month. He says at that time, members were prepared to accept compromises that were not generally their preferred options. Falconer pointed out that negotiators were in final decision-making mode, but that time has moved on and circumstances are such that precise texts could not in and of themselves secure an outcome.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy disagrees with Falconer and says a global trade pact is possible this year. At the opening of the Global Partnership for Development conference in New Delhi on Tuesday, Lamy says we have never been so close to an agreement.
"What Ministers and senior officials managed to achieve in the week they spent in Geneva late in July is absolutely remarkable," Lamy says. "In purely technical terms, the issues already agreed by the group of Ministers with whom I was holding the most intensive consultations would be sufficient for the drafting of schedules of commitments in Agriculture and NAMA. The political reality, nonetheless, is that we must wrap up a few remaining issues, and build consensus amongst all Members, before we can start the scheduling process, which would lead to the conclusion of the Round."
Among these few remaining issues, the most difficult one is the question of the Agricultural Special Safeguard Mechanism for developing countries, which proved be impossible to reconcile during the meeting in July. There are two divergent views on the SSM, one that the safeguard should be easy to use, the other that it should be subject to conditions and limitations.
"In spite of these differences, what Members told us very clearly during the plenary meetings held at the end of the talks, is that the negotiations should not be abandoned at this point," Lamy says. "In the view of our Members, too much has been achieved now, to simply leave it aside."