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Prospects for Cancun (September 8, 2003)

In a review of the “Big Picture” Issues at the Cancun Ministerial on September 10-14, David Woods, the former WTO spokesman, said that with governments deadlocked over agriculture it was difficult to foresee a worthwhile agreement on how to secure traction in the Doha Round negotiations as a whole. He was speaking on Monday (September) at a trade policy roundtable in Washington.

Whatever emerged, said Clayton Yeutter, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and earlier the U.S. Trade Representative, the heavy lifting lies ahead where agriculture is concerned, with much depending on the Cairns Group of smaller agricultural-exporting countries led by Australia and Brazil (click here for Ambassador Yeutter’s comment).

Hugh Corbet, President of the Cordell Hull Institute, wrote in a paper on Breaking the Impasse over Agriculture that with the confusion among governments over the purpose of the Doha Round negotiations and the WTO system itself, it was hardly surprising that the major players are at cross purposes. An effort has to be made to reflect on the seriousness of the situation with a view to lifting sights, but that is not likely to happen in the short run, so perhaps the crisis has to run its course with a view to re-launching the negotiations after the U.S. presidential elections next year.

The roundtable meeting was the second in the Institute’s series on the Cancun ministerial meeting. The first was on August 26 when Richard Eglin, Director of Trade & Finance at the WTO Secretariat, presented a paper on Extending the WTO System to Investment. The next two will review the outcome of the ministerial.

The Institute’s Trade Policy Roundtable is hosted by a group of Washington law firms.