Bali, December 06, 2013

“Let there be no encore of July, 2008, when WTO members had come close to signing a deal on the Doha Development Agenda”, said Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International and former member of the WTO’s High Level Panel on the Future of Trade in the 21st Century. “There was no deal on the full package of the DDA at Geneva in 2008, and the efforts now to get a small package face the same gloomy prospects”.

If Bali flops then the credibility of the WTO will take a great hit, and the developing world will be worse off. Already the DDA is not moving anywhere to restore the central role of development in the multilateral trading system, because of recalcitrance on the part of the rich countries. “They are happy to expand their trade liberalisation agenda through preferential trade agreements, which do not cover the whole world”, said Mehta.

The July, 2008 deal had collapsed due to the purported stand-off between USA and China and India on agriculture safeguards, while in fact the USA was not prepared to deal with its cotton subsidies. According to many pundits, the USA was the major cause for the failure, but tried to pin the blame on India and China.

Once again, India is being singled out as the spoilsport in Bali, because of its principled stand on public stockholding of food and the need for a carve out in the declaration to allow the ceilings revised to current level of prices rather than the 1986 prices as in the farm agreement agreed in 1994.

Cotton is no longer an issue because of rising prices and the poor West African cotton producing countries are happy with the draft Bali text, because they are not being disadvantaged by the less efficient US producers.

Hope still remains that better sense will prevail this time and a deal will be reached at Bali later today. A positive outcome at Bali will be good for all its members, for the global economy, and for multilateralism in general.