The Commission outlines its considered view on the failure in Cancun
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CTA. 2003. The Commission outlines its considered view on the failure in Cancun. Agritrade, November 2003. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52780
The Commission's analysis of events in Cancun at the WTO Ministerial ...
The Commission's analysis of events in Cancun at the WTO Ministerial meeting was given to the European Parliament by the Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy on September 24th 2003. He maintained that there was failure in Cancun 'quite simply because the gap between the parties' negotiating positions remained too wide to be bridged'. This occurred, he maintained, because the negotiations never gained momentum, and although the EU went a long way to lay the basis for an agreement in Cancun these efforts were not matched by other negotiators. He highlighted in particular how the EU had: launched the 'Everything But Arms' initiative in favour of least developed countries; withdrawn any linkage between fundamental social clauses and trade rules; relaxed its position on investment, competition, trade facilitation and public procurement; further reformed the CAP to reduce the amount of trade-distorting assistance provided to EU farmers; improved access to medicines by addressing the outstanding issues relating to TRIPS. This flexibility was contrasted with the failure of the USA to respond effectively on the cotton issue. Commissioner Lamy was critical of the Group of 21, which he believed had been intransigent and more inclined to flex its new-found muscle than to engage in serious negotiations. He felt that Africa and the LDC group had given undue attention to their fears of preference erosion rather than the prospective gains which could be made by a WTO agreement. Against this background Commissioner Lamy maintained there was no 'North-South' split in Cancun rather that the 'Norths' and the 'Souths' crossed paths without actually meeting. Overall he maintained that the EU 'negotiated in good faith' in Cancun and had added fresh concessions to those already tabled. Describing the outcome of Cancun as ' a major shock' he maintained that following this shock there was a need to ask fundamental questions, including: is the EU 'still looking to strike a dynamic balance between market opening and rule making'? does the EU 'still give preference to the multilateral approach?' should bilateral or regional agreements still be seen as an adjunct to the expansion of multilateral disciplines? what is the future for the EU's trade-preference schemes? 'does the WTO, its ground rules and organisational principles still meet today's needs?' Comment: There are significant variations in the perceptions of the 'concessions' that the EU made in the run up to Cancun. For example, the implementation of the EBA (over the impact of which there is considerable controversy) was seen by many as simply the fulfilment of commitments made at the Singapore WTO Ministerial and as such formed part of that round of negotiations. Equally, concessions on TRIPS and medicines were seen as the long over-due fulfilment of commitments entered into at the Seattle WTO meeting. Finally the process of CAP reform which is seen in the EU as profound (and in some respects it certainly is) is seen by many as freezing in place existing trade distortions in a more cost effective form. These major divergences in perception and the experience of reality constitute an important factor in the failure of the Cancun WTO Ministerial. Only if the European Commission is able to step away from its own Eurocentric perception of the reality and view the problems from the other end of the telescope is a basis for consensus , founded on mutual benefit, likely to emerge. The fundamental questions raised by Commissioner Lamy following the 'shock' of Cancun questions basic aspects of EU trade policy, such a the system of preferences for developing countries. However they do not question the basis of the gulf in perceptions which lie at the heart of the disagreements over how far the EU moved in Cancun.