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« Protection Comes in From the Cold? | Main | New Direction Needed After Doha Round Collapse »

July 29, 2008

It is now over...

So this is it… Another WTO ministerial has just collapsed and the talks are ending in acrimony, with members blaming each other for the failure. Although we do not like what Doha had become, this is a very sad play to be watching. The world is not getting any better out of this. We wish Ministers were more creative, and would have used this opportunity to outline an alternative path for the global community, since Doha does not satisfy anybody anymore.

Instead, here we are, divided between a sense of relief that a bad deal has been avoided, and serious concern that multilateralism is being severely damaged. Strong and fair multilateral trade rules are more essential than ever to help address the serious crises the world is currently facing. But Doha was not providing the right rules.

The mistake was to convene this ministerial in the first place. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy tried to use the multiple crises (food, climate, finance) to entice governments to agree to a deal that doesn't address these issues. It failed. Now he has to face the consequences.

Anne-Laure Constantin


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Although I can sympathize with the sentiments you express, the overwhelming relief that "no deal is better than a bad deal" won out over the "Doha must be saved at all costs" side shows that the years of effort to stop the Doha round was worth it. You are right to emphasize in the last paragraph that Pascal Lamy should not have convened this emergency mini-ministerial in the first place especially because it did not address the multiple crises that the world faces, not even the serious food crisis that severely impacts the poor countries.

linda kaucher

Surely we need to come back out of the trade agenda for analysis, to the power of corporations over governments, and the political and domestic implications.

It would also be helpful if the main NGOs in this area of trade critique (thanks for all your work by the way, in making information available) took a less partisan line between the people of developing and developed countries, and grasped the fact that this is corporations against people everywhere.

A stunning example is reporting on Mode 4, where organisations with a South perspective try to minimise what is being offered in Mode 4, no doubt to Mandelson's glee, as inadequate access. This is presumably in an effort to dissuade developing countries from trading investor access to their services for Mode 4 access

But in a scenario of eg Indian megacorporations with right to establish in the EU, bringing in teams of temporary skilled workers on the minimum wage (the concept of skilled is actually pretty elastic) for on-the-spot outsourcing, without the disadvantages of offshoring, then consider the labour effects.

It has to undermine job availability, wages and working conditions in the few areas of the world where such things exist, and where workers have any leverage.

The flow-on development result will be that people in developing countries will NEVER get these things because the model will be lost.

Union rhetoric refers to utopian dreams of supporting unionisation in other countries even while their own power at home leaks away - strongly exacerbated by Mode 4 which they fail to criticise - so they are in fact selling a misleading lie.

Several indicators show the danger of Mode 4. The European Services Forum (transnational service investors) lobbies for it; the very high priority that India in particular gives it suggests that very significant numbers are expected; the ridiculous and MINIMUM figure of 80 000 floated last week, which was (as far as I know) undefined as to what it actually related to. It served to suggests a modest figure to allay concern to anyone in the EU who has worked out what 'Mode 4' code actually means, while being in fact a meaningless MINIMUM; at the same time assuring eg India that numbers can indeed go up and up.

A similar spin trick was used in the UK in relation to EU expansion. A figure of 13 000 was suggested, when it became in fact a million and a half, and still growing, (not that there is any means to actually count). And it has had a definitive effect on unskilled and trades employment jobs, wages, working conditions including safety etc. Now a government think tank, IPPR, is saying that many have gone home, even though the observed evidence is otherwise and there is again no way of counting, preparing the public to accept Mode 4, when they eventually find out about it - probably too late.

If you want to be involved in creating and supporting a new trade model, as I do, I suggest you revisit Mode 4.

Thanks again


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