Sunday, December 25, 2011

Whither WTO?

I had earlier blogged about the lack of announcements and news of impact of the 8th Ministerial Conference of the WTO which concluded at Geneva from the 15th to the 17th of December, 2011. Was there an air of gloom and pessimism inspite of the ministerial declaration against protectionism and progress on the procurement agreement?

In a rather scathing criticism on the lack of clarity of the results of the MC8, this piece in the Huffingtonpost said,
"Ministers of trade from around the world met this weekend in Geneva for the eighth time since the World Trade Organisation (WTO) opened in 1995. Decisions on international trade rules affecting millions are meant to be made at such conferences, yet type a basic internet search for 'WTO' today and you are more likely to find the World Toilet Organisation than any news coverage of the Ministerial conference dubbed MC8."

Commenting on the fate of the multilateral institution it continues,
"Like watching a bad film to the end just in case the director or actors redeem themselves MC8 was a milestone in the wonky world of trade economists and lawyers. Between bi-annual conferences wonks are in charge of crunching the numbers and re-interpreting the legal texts. For three glorious days every two years politicians can make major decisions. Except they don't. This time politicians were determining the fate of an organisation that has failed to deliver on any of the commitments made 10 years ago. Now, by their inaction, politicians have directly forced a re-design of the global trade system. But the cast has discredited the film and no-one will watch the sequel."

Bloomberg Businessweek commented on the failure of the Ministerial to provide answers,
"The World Trade Organization wrapped up its ministerial meeting yesterday without deciding how to revive global commerce talks, focusing instead on welcoming Russia to the fold and securing a government-procurement accord.

Efforts to reach an agreement during the Doha Round of trade talks have been blocked for years as the countries fail to make concessions on lowering agriculture subsidies and industrial tariffs. Ministers including U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk have said the round needs a new approach after a decade of unsuccessful attempts to bridge gaps among 153 nations."
Another report commented on the lacklustre Ministerial thus,
"Uncharacteristically devoid of controversies inside the negotiating rooms and battles outside - such as was the case in Seattle (1999), Cancun (2003), and Hong Kong (2005) - this year's conference was opened at a time when the fate of the WTO and its instruments are questioned by many. Such views are overwhelming, Nigerian Ambassador Olusengun Olutoyin Aganga, chairman of the conference, had to declare that the "WTO is alive and still kicking."
But, its rather uneventful ministerial conferences are obvious to both delegates and non-delegates alike. Gone are the days when "WTO ministerials" were worth their names, according to the Ugandan Jane S. Nalunga, from the Information and Negotiations Institute for Southern and Eastern Africa Trade and long-time advocate of Africa's place in international trade."

The lack of information is rather uncharacteristic of the WTO which has been at the forefront of transparency and information dessimination. Perhaps, the news is not all that good?


No comments: