The outlook for the Doha round may not be as bad as it looks; why a dreary North sea gas pipeline is at the centre of things; and Gordon's productivity problemby P L / May 20, 2006 / Leave a comment
It’s up to Lamy
Prospects for the Doha round look grim. Over five years in, and the World Trade Organisation’s 149 members still seem as far apart as they were during the 2003 Cancún debacle. Only the massaging down of expectations by WTO boss Pascal Lamy ahead of the Hong Kong summit last December rescued it from disaster. Now another deadline looms: 30th April, by when an outline deal must be reached if a final agreement is to be struck by the end of the year, ahead of the expiry of Bush’s fast-track authority in 2007.
But while progress has been painfully slow, all hope is not lost. Negotiators have a much clearer idea of each other’s true bottom lines. So if the political will is there on all sides, a framework deal could rapidly fall into place. The grand bargain involves the EU and the US opening their agriculture markets—the EU cutting its farm tariffs, the US its subsidies—in return for greater access to industrial and services markets in developing countries, notably India and Brazil. The poorest countries also need to be bought off with duty-free access to EU and US markets; in particular, the US has to hack down its cotton subsidies, while the EU has to compensate its ex-colonies for eroding the margin of their preferential access to EU markets.
The key to success does not lie solely in Brussels and Washington. New Delhi and Brasilia must also step up to the mark. They showed in Cancún that they were a force to be reckoned with; now they need to use their power responsibly by making the concessions that will unlock further moves from the EU and the US. India and Brazil have a new-found confidence; if they can overcome their lingering doubts about liberalisation, they have much to gain from a successful Doha round. Lamy too is vital—not just as an honest broker, but also as a deal-maker. If the talks remain logjammed, he should break the deadlock by publishing his own draft agreement. That will take guts, for sure, but Lamy has plenty of those—and the alternative is failure.
Gas connections The unglamorous gas pipeline known as the “interconnector,” which runs between Bacton in Norfolk and Zeebrugge in Belgium, has suddenly become the centre of political attention. Britain has little spare gas capacity, especially since a fire damaged the country’s main gas storage facility,…