Mr. Lamy’s ’Quiet‘ Visit to Washington

Original Publication Date: 
5 November, 2006

World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy visited some high-ranking officials here Thursday and Friday to plead the case for resuming the long-stalled Doha Development Agenda negotiations - and then left for New York to participate in yesterday's New York City marathon (WTD, 11/3/06).

Neither Mr. Lamy nor US Trade Representative Susan Schwab or Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns spoke to the press following the meetings. Mr. Lamy also met with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

However, commenting before his meeting, Agriculture Secretary Johanns said he doubted that Mr. Lamy could patch together enough of a compromise to get negotiations started again. Differences remain great, he said.

The meetings were prefaced by a Wall Street Journal commentary authored by Mr. Lamy which warned that the five-year-old negotiations were on their last legs and close to total collapse. "There comes a time in every negotiation where the prospect of failure looms. For the Doha round of global trade negotiations, that time has nearly arrived. The costs - economic, systemic, political - of such a failure are acknowledged by politicians, business leaders and members of civil society."

Playing to the Hands of Protectionists

The Director General warned that an end to the negotiations would play into the hands of protectionists around the world. He also noted that more has been accomplished in the five years of the talks to liberalize trade - including in agriculture - than has been done in the history of the WTO and the predecessor General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

"Even by the most conservative measure, what has already been agreed over the last five years surpasses anything agreed on a trade round before," he wrote. Pledges to cut trade-distorting domestic farm subsidies surpass those made in the last WTO round of trade talks - the Uruguay round - by two to three times."

"The 'time out' in the multilateral trade talks has already led many governments to consider bilateral or regional accords. These deals offer much less than a global pact. They do not address systemic issues like farm or fishery subsidies, antidumping or trade facilitation procedures. They create a myriad of different rules and procedures which mean higher administrative costs for entrepreneurs," Mr. Lamy wrote.

There are only a few months left to rescue the floundering talks - before the US Congress embarks on a new multi-year farm bill and deals with renewal of special Presidential trade negotiating authority, Mr.

Lamy wrote. Negotiations must advance by early next spring.

It is up to the United States, the European Union, India, China, Brazil and Japan to assert their leadership to move the negotiations forward, Mr. Lamy concluded.

The WTO Director General completed the 8-mile marathon through New York City in 3 hours and 50 minutes - placing 8,939 among some 37,000 runners.