12 February 2004, The Financial Times

Sir, The latest idea from Pascal Lamy, the European Union trade commissioner, is not only a red herring, as your editorial suggests (“Lamy’s big idea”, February 10). It is also a quite unwarranted dispersal of energy and concentration. There is one – and only one – trade policy priority at this moment and that is achieving a successful completion of the Doha development agenda.

It is urgent for many reasons, not least among them (as the eloquent letter by Mr Pradeep S. Mehta on the same page vividly illustrates) because of the effects expected in poverty reduction and in achieving the millennium development goals. The Doha negotiations are stalled, the negotiators are failing to fulfil their task.

Though the responsibility for this state of affairs is not exclusively that of the EU, it is nevertheless one of the more obstructionist parties and could, instead, provide a great deal of leadership by taking the initiative, especially in agriculture. The fact that the Commission believes Europeans should “indulge” themselves in enjoying the luxuries of “collective social preferences” when 40 per cent of humanity live on less than $2 a day is insensitive and irresponsible.

It can only widen the chasm between the rich and poor countries, something we should all be doing as much as possible to narrow.

I last saw and heard Commissioner Lamy in Dhaka, where he said that modalities should be in place for moving ahead on the Doha negotiations by March this year. For many issues, this implies being behind deadlines for many months. The trade commissioner should stick to his knitting and stick to the agenda. Once the work at hand has been completed, then we can go off and think up wild ideas. Not before!

*Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Professor of International Political Economy, IMD, Founding Director, The Evian Group, 1001-Lausanne, Switzerland