FRANCE: The G8 Summit: Leaders Paper Over Cracks on WTO Talks

Publisher Name: 
Financial Times

The Group of Eightmembers yesterday committed themselves to concluding
the stalled Doha world trade round on schedule by the end of next year, but
hinted at no shifts in negotiating positions that could lead to progress in
the talks.

The leaders pledged to provide the leadership needed to ensure the
success of the World Trade Organisation's crucial ministerial meeting in
Cancn, Mexico, in September and to improve market access for all WTO
members, particularly poor ones.

However, a seven-point action plan set out in a joint communiqu
contained no fresh initiatives and glossed over differences, particularly
between the US and the European Union, on the agenda and priorities for the
Doha negotiations.

The action plan also failed to mention an EU proposal, pressed by
President Jacques Chirac of France, the summit host, for a temporary
suspension of rich nations' subsidies on farm exports to African countries.

By concentrating on trade as a means of regenerating confidence in a
world economic recovery, the G8 sought to ignore disagreements between
Europe, the US and Japan over exchange rates.

In contrast to past summits, the leaders of the G8 - Britain, Canada,
France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Russia and the US - avoided any reference to
the current exchange rates, with the dollar depreciating against the euro to
uncomfortable levels for the eurozone.

Both US President George W. Bush and Mr Chirac, in a brief press
conference after a bilateral meeting, expressed confidence in global
economic recovery. But only Tony Blair, prime minister, mentioned
specifically the need for success in the Doha round. The G8 members,
including Russia, which is not a WTO member, directed their ministers and
officials to "pursue urgently" a list of broad objectives in the Doha round.

As well as improved market access, they included strengthening WTO
rules, dealing with the problem of poor countries' access to medicines and
seeking agreement on the parameters of negotiations on competition,
investment, trade facilitation and public procurement transparency.

They also noted the importance of technical assistance to poorer WTO
members and the need to improve integration of trade, finance and
development policies and trade preference schemes.

The communiqu contained no reference to trade disputes between G8
members, such as Washington's WTO challenge to the EU's de facto moratorium
on authorising new genetically modified crops.

The leaders committed themselves to "delivering on schedule" by the
end of 2004 the goals set out in the Doha Development Agenda, and to
ensuring that the Cancn meeting took "all decisions necessary to help reach
that goal".

Development campaigners voiced scepticism that the US or EU would be
willing to agree before Cancn to change their farm subsidy systems and
questioned whether there was a real will to break the deadlock.

They also said the communiqu's wording on resolving the issue of
patents and poor countries' access to medicines was too vague. Many other
points in the action plan were imprecise or else restated wealthy nations'
earlier pledges.

Before the meeting, business leaders had sought to impress on Mr
Chirac the need for a strong message of unity following the divisions over
the Iraqi crisis between Europe and the US.

Despite the outward displays of friendship at Evian, the message
limited to world trade may be regarded as insufficient to generate
confidence in Europe's ability to address its structural reforms and US
willingness to listen to its partners.

AMP Section Name:Trade Justice
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