Calling China to Account on the Doha Round

By June 25, 2010Trade

Back in May, the NAM issued a statement on just-concluded WTO discussions in Paris that commented, “The only way that a balanced Doha Round outcome that benefits all nations – including the United States, but especially including the least developed countries – can be obtained is if U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and his negotiating team make it plain that the United States will settle for nothing less.”

As the G-8/G-20 talks begin in Toronto, we are particularly pleased to see a very senior member of Ambassador Kirk’s negotiating team is making it plain.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke is the U.S. ambassador and America’s top negotiator at the World Trade Organization (WTO). In an interview with Reuters, he quite pointedly blames China for stalling negotiations in the ongoing Doha Round, saying “When it comes to China we’re getting no engagement whatsoever, not even in terms of process.”

He also observes that Brazil and India, two other large, dynamic advanced-developing nations, have not been willing to make the necessary commitments that will open their markets to new trade flows, while acknowledging that Brazil and India have at least been involved in a “useful and constructive” process with the United States in recent months.

The advanced developing nations, including China, Brazil and India, have steadfastly refused to make any concessions that would lead to real market opening or generate new trade flows. They have hidden behind their flawed argument that, because this is the “Doha Development Round” and they are “developing nations” they should not have to make any cuts in their high tariff rates.

The NAM agrees that this argument holds water — for countries that the U.N. terms “small & vulnerable economies” or “least-developed nations” – but there is NO WAY that Brazil, China, India and other advanced-developing nations fit that description.  They are among the fastest growing, export-intensive economies on earth, and they have a responsibility to make concession commensurate with their economic growth.  Former U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab once described their negotiating position at the WTO as “elephants hiding behind mice.”

The NAM strongly supports a balanced and ambitious Doha outcome. Balanced and ambitious mean different things to different participants – but the Doha Round is not a donor’s conference, and the U.S. is not at the table to make unilateral sacrifices.  As Ambassador Punke says in his interview, the U.S. recognizes that the Doha Round is a multilateral negotiation. He states: “What we’ve said is that we believe that negotiations involve a process of give and take and that we will evaluate all requests for market access from the U.S. in the context of the overall package that we’re able to achieve.”

In short: The large advanced-developing nations, like Brazil, China, and India must make additional concessions to reach the point of balance and ambition. They need to engage in the sectoral process, they need to engage in the Environmental Goods & Services Agreement (EGSA) negotiations, they need to engage in robust services commitments, and they need to be front and center in the non-tariff barrier (NTB) discussions. The United States and other developed nations have repeatedly shown a willingness to continue negotiations and make additional concessions in the WTO as long as the end result is new market access and new trade flows. Some of our negotiating partners in Geneva had made much of the fact they were waiting patiently for a new U.S. trade ambassador to arrive. Well, he’s arrived, and he’s made it plain that the U.S. will not settle for a less than balanced result.

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