Tuesday, May 02, 2006


As Doha flounders, CARICOM Countries get second wind

Despite reported “modest” achievements attained during the Sixth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference held in Hong Kong, a number of important issues were left unresolved. With regard to agricultural negotiations, Ministers had agreed in Hong Kong to establish trade liberalizing formulae or modalities and tackle such issues as state trading, food aid and export competition, no later than April 30, 2006 as well as to submit comprehensive draft schedules based on these modalities no later than July 31, 2006. As it turns out, the United States and the European Union failed to reach agreement on agricultural subsidies by said deadline thereby preventing negotiations from proceeding on to new global trade rules, according to a timeline set out for 2006.

Nevertheless US officials feel a more important date than the missed April 30 deadline is the end of 2006. They maintain that negotiators could agree on the 'modalities' at some point in the summer without derailing the overall talks. However, if a Doha Round agreement is not concluded by the end of 2006, there will likely not be enough time for the U.S. Congress to consider the document before President Bush’s trade promotion authority expires in mid-2007. The real critical date for getting a new trade reform agreement, according to US officials will most likely be December 2006.

In the meantime, a group of nine Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have taken advantage of the impasse to petition the WTO to extend their export subsidy programs to the year 2018, on the basis that they are of great importance to their economic and financial needs. The WTO Committee reportedly decided that the request for an extension will be given consideration in October this year.

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