Report from Geneva

By June 30, 2006Trade

Boy, it is hot here! Geneva is in the middle of a heat wave, with the temperature in the mid-80’s – very hot for normally-cool Switzerland. People are working up a sweat all over town – except at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters. In fact, as you approach the WTO building you begin to notice the temperature dropping. And when you enter the building the environment is so frosty that if you could somehow funnel it out to the rest of the city, you could cool all Geneva (and maybe Liechtenstein, too)!

Trade ministers from about 60 countries have gathered here to try to break the five-year gridlock in the Doha Round of trade negotiations, but nothing has really changed. The Europeans say they can’t offer significantly more access for U.S. and other foreign farm products, and the advanced developing countries like Brazil, China, and India are saying they want the United States to virtually eliminate its industrial tariffs while they make little if any cut in theirs.

Everybody is telling the United States it is all our fault because we won’t do more in cutting U.S. agricultural subsidies, but the U.S. says, “Whoa, we already made a big subsidies-cutting offer – you guys have to respond to our first offer before we make a second offer.”

Is there hope? Maybe. European trade commissioner Mandelson today said perhaps the Europeans could do some more in terms of agricultural market access – but the French Agricultural Minister (who must have rented out a whole train from Paris, given the number of French agricultural officials here), immediately said “non.” He said he is holding all the cards, and nothing more is going to be offered.

So maybe the Doha Round is toast – French toast?