Farm Talks: Stalemate Unlikely To End

New Delhi, March 24 | Updated: Mar 25 2004, 05:30am hrs
The on-going meeting of the committee on agriculture (CoA) at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which resumed this week after a gap of six months, is unlikely to end the stalemate which followed the failure of the ministerial meet in Cancun, Mexico, last September.

According to trade experts, the CoA meeting will not result in substantial movement in the agriculture talks as no country has given any indication of moving from the stand taken at the Cancun meet.

Speaking to FE, London School of Economics (LSE) senior lecturer Razeen Sally said that the negotiators in Geneva cannot do much till they get the right signals from their national capitals. He said that no such signal was forthcoming for various reasons including elections in countries like the US, France and India. The negotiators can go through the motions in Geneva, but nothing substantial will emerge till there is political will, Dr Sally said.

Agreeing with Dr Sally, Debashis Chakraborty from the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) said that countries would only re-state their positions at the meet. Nothing has happened since Cancun to indicate that there would be a change in the earlier positions. I dont think there is going to be a breakthrough at this stage, Dr Chakraborty said.

According to former WTO deputy director general Anwarul Ul Hoda, the agriculture negotiations are not going to move forward till the EU and the US are prepared to move. Unless the two make better offers, the talks will not proceed, he said.

One of the main reasons for the failure of the Cancun ministerial meet was the inability of members to agree on the modalities for agriculture negotiations. The US-EU alliance, which was forged prior to the Cancun meet, was not prepared to commit much towards reduction of their huge agriculture subsidies. At the same time, they wanted developing countries to make tariff reduction commitments.

The G-20 alliance of developing countries comprising India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Argentina among others, which came together to counter the US-EU grouping, maintained that they would not make any commitments till the two agreed to reduce subsidies in a time-bound manner.