Mr. Mandelsons Quiet Diplomacy

Original Publication Date: 
1 October, 2006

European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson ended three days of quiet exploratory discussions here in Washington with a plea for all sides to show more flexibility in order to get the stalled World Trade Organization Doha Development Agenda negotiations back on track (WTD, 9/28/06).

We face a tough challenge to bring the Doha round to a successful timely conclusion, Mr. Mandelson said in a statement issued Friday. I believe that the Administration is committed to this and so am I. The EU official met with members of the Administration, Congress, business and farm communities. I hope that this visit will give us renewed energy to work together to get it done, by showing flexibility ourselves and persuading others to do likewise, Mr. Mandelson continued.

During his visit, he met with US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, but - as Ms. Schwab had earlier predicted - those discussions produced no breakthroughs. Members of Congress who met with Mr. Mandelson said they heard nothing to suggest one is imminent. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he remained very pessimistic about a quick restart of the negotiating round following his private meeting.

AFBFs Stallman

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman - who met Friday with Mr. Mandelson - told reporters he also did not sense a breakthrough in the offing. I didnt hear anything today that changed my opinion of how the process is going whatsoever, he commented. Everybody more or less stuck to their same old positions.

But National Association of Manufacturers President John Engler came away from his meeting the same day feeling more optimistic. I believe the stalemate can be broken, he said, but added the focus needs to move away from agriculture to industrial trade and services, where Washington and Brussels have more in common.

Separately, Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia suggested Friday that African countries need to be more active in seeking to restart the stalled Doha talks. Least developed countries need to look beyond agriculture and see the importance of services liberalization to their economic growth, he told a conference sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa.

Mr. Bhatia told WTD the Administration is planning to reach out to African countries as part of its quiet diplomacy effort to create momentum for the Doha talks.