Rich world to blame for Doha breakdown, says FAO

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fao World trade organization

The Doha Round of global agriculture negotiations collapsed mainly
because of infighting between large and powerful countries,
corporations and lobbies, said the FAO this week.

In a direct attack on the conduct of trading blocs that included the EU and the US, the FAO argued that the approach adopted in the talks, in effect, was flawed from the outset.

"It failed to take sufficient account of the interests of developing countries and focussed on 'free trade, rather than fair trade,'"​ said the organisation.

The FAO said that the negotiations never got round to addressing trade issues related to the needs of poor countries and small farmers. As a result the Doha Round collapsed because of a fundamental lack of fairness in its vision, its process and its projected outcomes.

Matters came to a head last month when WTO director general Pascal Lamy suspended negotiations after talks among six major members broke down. Ministers from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States had met in Geneva to try to follow up on instructions from the St Petersburg Summit on 17 July.

This effectively meant that the much-heralded talks, which were supposed to introduce important changes in global trade tariffs, ended in failure.

The negotiations focussed on the problem of high levels of budgetary support and import protection in several developed countries. But according to the FAO, one the three largest agricultural subsidisers would not cut its agricultural subsidies to a level acceptable to the others.

Another of the three would not reduce its agricultural tariffs by an acceptable amount.

"Another factor in the failure of the talks was that developing countries had little to gain from an agreement centred on concerns of the large developed countries,"​ said the FAO. "The Doha Rounds focus was largely irrelevant to the least developed countries, who have seen almost no gains from past WTO agricultural trade agreements."

Nonetheless, the FAO believes that lessons can be learned. "When negotiations restart, the Doha Round should address domestic subsidies and market access issues in order that they do not undermine development,"​ said the organisation.

There was serious disappointment within the EU food and drink industry business that talks broke down. The CIAA (confederation of the food and drink industries) said that it had expected the multilateral process to deliver a level playing field through fairer agricultural policies and enhanced trade opportunities.

It believed that a successful conclusion would have helped secure continued industry investment across Europe, pushed trading partners into reforming their agricultural systems.

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