The World Trade Organization is in crisis after 146 member countries failed to agree on a free trade agreement Sunday in the Mexican holiday resort of Cancun.
During the four days of talks, the superpowers the European Union and the United States were obviously surprised that a joint coalition of middle-income and developing countries stood firmly together.
Noteworthy was that the EU's representatives showed up with a mandate that was not geared to tackle the poor countries' insistence to become a ''power player'' in the talks.
The frightening scenario for the EU, as well as global trade, is that the United States has decided to distance itself from the WTO, focusing instead on making bilateral agreements with trading partners.
It is neither the EU, the United States or the WTO that stand as the biggest losers. Instead some 144 million people in the developing world do. According to the World Bank, they would have their standard of living improved noticeably with a free trade agreement.
That is the real scandal of the failure in Cancun.
Posten, Copenhagen, Denmark
There was something pathetic about the African countries' whoops of delight at the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Cancun. True, they were registering disgust at the paltry offers of the European Union and America on cutting agricultural subsidies. But any setback in the Doha Round, which was launched in 2001 to reduce import barriers and farm aid, will leave them in an even weaker position than at present.
Big economic powers such as the EU, America and China are likely to turn instead to regional and bilateral free trade agreements; Washington has already concluded one with Singapore, and another, with Australia, is due by the end of the year. In such dealing outside the framework of the WTO, poor, weak nations have next to no say.
If African rejoicing was premature, the stance of the EU and America was insultingly mean. Brussels stood pat on the limited reform of the Common Agricultural Policy agreed in June. The Bush Administration, having hugely increased public spending on agriculture in the 2002 farm bill, expressed willingness to cut it provided developing nations lowered their import tariffs. Those same countries were also asked to accept new rules on investment, competition, cutting red tape and transparency in government procurement. These are laudable goals, but they are difficult to implement and it was unreasonable to expect the developing world to swallow them after it had been so shabbily treated over agriculture. ...
The Daily Telegraph, London
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