Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tough Road Ahead For WTO (Couldn't Happen To A Bunch Of Nicer Pricks)

Global fallout over trade talks hints at tough future for WTO

By Ethan McNern
CHINA blamed "selfish" wealthy western nations yesterday for the latest failure to conclude long-running talks to free up global trade, while Asian rival Japan pointed the finger at the region's emerging giants.
China's official news agency, Xinhua, said the negotiations at World Trade Organisation headquarters in Geneva collapsed ultimately because the United States and the European Union were unwilling to scrap huge subsidies they pay their farmers. But
Japan upbraided China and India, as growing economic powers, for not shouldering greater responsibilities in the WTO.The talks collapsed on Tuesday over a proposal to help poor farmers deal with floods of imports.Xinhua said rich countries cared too much about their own interests and too little about those of developing nations.Not only were Washington and Brussels unwilling to face down their farm lobbies, but they put huge pressure on poor countries to slash tariffs on industrial imports and throw open their financial services markets to western banks and insurers."This selfishness and short-sighted behaviour has directly caused the failure of this WTO ministerial meeting, which will have a number of serious consequences," Xinhua said.But the Japanese government said China was less sinned against than sinning. "Frankly, I'd have to wonder whether China and India weighed their words and actions commensurate with their responsibility and how much they considered the overall global economy as they focused too much on their own interests," Nobutaka Machimura, the chief cabinet secretary, said. Both India and China now wield more economic influence than they did when the trade talks were launched in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in 2001, Mr Machimura added."In other words, their responsibilities have also grown bigger, too," he said. "I hope China and India will address international negotiations like the WTO talks with a sense of how big a role they play in the world economy."China, too, chided India for the way the talks ended, in what the commerce minister, Chen Deming, called "tragic failure". But trade experts in India dismissed any idea that New Delhi had been obstructionist.The recriminations reflect the many fault-lines running through the WTO talks, which must reconcile the different political and economic priorities of the body's 153 members.China was ready to intensify its bilateral links with other WTO members, especially developing countries, Mr Chen said.The number of preferential trade deals involving Asia- Pacific countries has exploded in recent years, largely due to the deadlock in the WTO, and experts expect the trend to continue.

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