Why has, in your opinion, the WTO 7th Ministerial Conference not contributed to anything? Nevertheless, the aim of the conference was to revise the activities of the WTO and to precise the organizations role at times of world crisis.
Al-Ahram Hebdo: Why has, in your opinion, the WTO 7th Ministerial Conference not contributed to anything? Nevertheless, the aim of the conference was to revise the activities of the WTO and to precise the organizations role at times of world crisis.
Atul Kaushik: As regards these two topics, The World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference has not been able to do anything substantial. It has not presented any solution to its members to adjust existing disagreements, nor suggestions on WTO having the strengths and the rules needed to manage World Trade. I would have preferred a review of the internal regulations of the WTO. No member presented any suggestions for the formulation of its system. Only India presented a suggestion containing 5 proposals, but these were unclear and inexact, and were seen as inadequate.
The Doha Round is expected to be completed in 2010. Does this date seem tangible to you or are we heading towards a failure?
The organization would never accept, or more exactly, would never declare the failure of the Doha Round. Because its failure, would mean a failure of the WTO. So, even if the negotiations fail, the WTO will not announce it as such. The WTO will simply announce conclusion of the discussions at another time. In the best case, we are expecting the end of the negotiations in 2010, but this would mean an implementation of the agreements of a period of 3-4 more years. However, I do not think that this will be the case. The Round and its implementation, which is dedicated to development, could therefore last for another 10 years.
Which are the main obstacles impeding Doha?
First of all, the question is actually about the position of the United-States and of the EU. It is now the developed countries turn to make concession, but this is not in their [US’s, EU’s] perception.
The new Obama Administration is not ready to undertake the required liberalisation of its market, especially in the wake of the ongoing economic crisis. The Doha Round has become the Obama Round. At the same time, the European Commissioner who is in charge of the matter on behalf of 27 European countries has been replaced by someone whose position is not yet known.
This battle gives the impression that there is a confrontation between the farmers in developed countries and farmers in developing countries.
It has to be said that, for example, in the US, it is the big agriculture/food companies that seize a large part of the subsidy, and not the small farmers. And in Europe, it has to be said that the farmers only represent 1% of the European population, but still seize 2/3 of the subsidies. The European market is using farmers as an excuse to protect itself. It is here that the role of the WTO is needed: to construct a balance between the interests of the two sides [farmers in developing and developed countries].
Within the WTO, countries create pressure groups, each country in accordance with its interests. Could these blocs win towards developed countries?
Unfortunately not; for the simple reason that the US and the EU undertake majority of the World Trade. Developing countries have not been able to strengthen their cooperation in a way that makes them get more access in the developed countries. For example, in Africa and in the Middle-East, despite the economic entities which have been created, the US and the EU remain your main economic partners. The same exists in for example Peru, and it’s the same in other developing countries.
Atul Kaushik (firstname.lastname@example.org) originally from India, Director of the NGO CUTS Geneva, points out the weakness of the World Trade Organization and comments on the future of the Doha Round.
Interview by Nevine Kamel