World Trade Organisation
FAILED DOHA TRADE TALKS
The proposed Cairns Group summit meeting to be held in Cairns on 20-22 September 2006 is at best a face-saving exercise by the Federal Government for its failure to recognise the futility of the WTO's globalisation of world markets.
It is now almost a certainty that the Doha round of trade talks, which have been on life support for the last few years, can officially be declared as dead.
WTO Director General Pascal Lamy announced on 24 July 2006 that he would recommend to the WTO General Council that negotiations be suspended for an indefinite period following the breakdown of talks between Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States in Geneva.
The key issue was the unwillingness of the US and the European Union, who blamed each other for the impasse, to reduce barriers to agricultural imports from the developing world.
Australia's Trade Minister Mark Vaile has been attempting to keep the round alive for years but it is now clear that the major players, the United States and Europe have failed to agree on the matter of farm subsidies and the talks have collapsed.
Its seems as though the repeated deferrals were simply a ploy to give the likes of our Trade Minister hope while he concluded the Australian-American Free Trade Agreement and it is now apparent that at no time did either the U.S. or the E.U. intend to make concessions.
Under normal circumstances conference conclusions such as this would set a restart date, however far into the future, but this series of negotiations, to any realist are bereft of life. No restart date was set and the great probability is that none will ever be set.
Which brings us to the point where we must revisit the Australian-American Free Trade Agreement. As other American allies and neighbours have found, namely Canada and Mexico, it is virtually impossible to conclude a Free Trade Agreement with America that is not implemented to the overt benefit of the United States.
It is of course with the benefit of this well publicised knowledge that Mr. Vaile went into the trade agreement negotiations with the United States. Notwithstanding that "on the record" history, he entered into an agreement that excluded out primary produce from the United states for some 20 years, has put our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme at serious risk and so disrupted our patent and copyright law that it will not be long before every Australian kid with a computer and an internet connection will be a criminal.
So given the ultimate result of the Doha fiasco, it is now time that the Australian Government, allegedly dedicated to the interests of Australia and the Australian people, served notice on the United States that the Free Trade Agreement is under review and that a more equitable agreement is required.
In the absence of this we would be better to trade bilaterally and let Mr. Zollick's triumph, which was an embarrassment to the American Congress at the time, slowly sink back into the abyss from which it came.
While WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said that the collapse of the so-called Doha Development Round, which was launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001, would be a blow to developing countries, international community groups said the collapse was the best possible outcome.
The 149-member WTO was formed in 1995 to set binding rules for international trade, and became a household name in North America following mass protests at the 1999 WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle.
A study released by the World Bank in 2005 agreed that the impacts of the "likely Doha scenario" would do little to help the world's poor. The agreement, said the report, would mean a gain of just $16 billion over ten years, or just 0.16 per cent of developing-country gross domestic product, or less than a cent a day per capita.
Now that there is little doubt Doha is dead perhaps the Federal government will now apply the same tariff rules to foreign governments that these same foreign governments apply to Australia's primary producers and manufacturers.
The alternative is death by a thousand cuts for Australia's remaining primary and secondary industries.
Thursday, 3 August 2006
TO: INDEPENDENT VIEW