WTO Doha: Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 10/26/2009 04:44:00 PM
The title of Neil Young's second album with his now-legendary backing band Crazy Horse says its all when it comes to the Doha Round. Earlier on, we got a lot of "don't worry because previous rounds were also interminable" rhetoric. But, with nine years of gridlock and deadlock upon us, perhaps it's time for those keen on multilateral talks to show more despair.

Pascal Lamy has issued a rather dry statement reaffirming what we suspect:
My general impression of the past week has seen useful engagement in focused and constructive discussions. There has been no backsliding on the level of ambition. But at the same time, we have not yet seen tangible progress in the negotiations and, overall, I would say that the current speed with which we are advancing is too slow to arrive at modalities latest by early next year as we need to do to be in a position to wrap this Round next year. This is the reality.
Reuters reports on major stumbling points which require quorum that aren't quite forthcoming based on Lamy's statements:

Broad agreement has been reached in many areas of the talks, launched in late
2001 to create new market opportunities and help developing countries prosper
through trade. But they are stalled over differences between exporters and
importers, and rich and poor countries on how much to cut farm subsidies and
industrial and agricultural tariffs, as well as opening up markets for services
such as banking and telecoms. WTO members from Brazil to China expressed
concern that the talks were even losing ground, in line with gloom after a
meeting on Thursday of key delegations.
There are also references to participants' unhappiness over "Green Room" negotiations where smaller delegations thrash matters out while omitting other interested parties who can be much affected. This, of course, is a recurrent complaint. However, the Director-General whose conference room is, after all, the "Green Room" doesn't make much of a fuss:
Many members objected to the format of the talks, where negotiations on the full
range of trade issues -- reinforced once a month by senior officials from
national capitals -- are complemented by bilateral contacts and meetings in
small groups. Argentina, Switzerland and others complained in particular about a
series of meetings of a dozen countries hosted by the European Union that
touched on key issues of interest to them.

Turkey's WTO ambassador, Bozkurt Aran, told Friday's session that it was the least promising meeting since he arrived in Geneva just over a year ago, according to one participant. But Lamy said the format was not important if members were unwilling to move on questions of substance. "The key now is not process, but rather what happens in the negotiations. Specifically, we now need to engage in text-based negotiations to bridge gaps," he said. "That is the only way these negotiations can bear fruit."
I honestly wish I could be more positive but it appears to be same old, same old. Throw the Neil Young on the record player and cue up "Cinnamon Girl" for the umpteenth time. Doha, Qatar may just be a state of mind.