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It’s a Development Round, Remember?


What do U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley and EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson have in common? A short memory. Keep in mind when reading these statements: The current round of trade talks is formally named the “Doha Development Round,” so-called because it was meant to focus on using free trade to meet the needs of developing countries:

First, here’s Grassley in Wednesday’s Wall St. Journal Asia:

Trade ministers, who hope to complete trade talks in the current Doha Round by early 2007, already had agreed to lower their sights for this meeting in the face of disagreements over reducing farm tariffs and subsidies. Still, they hope to reach a constructive agreement on development issues for the poorest countries.

One item under consideration by the U.S. and EU: a proposal to provide duty-free, quota-free treatment for all goods exported by the world’s poorest countries, a collection of 48 nations, mostly in Africa. That prospect is raising concern among U.S. textile producers, an influential lobby in the U.S. Congress, who would face increased competition. U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican whose committee has jurisdiction over trade, lodged complaints yesterday that the development agenda is becoming the “overriding focus of the Hong Kong ministerial.”

Well duh. That’s the whole point of the current round. It’s not enough that the textile lobbyists talked Congress into forcing China to stop selling us so many cheap clothes (the interests of the U.S. consumer are always the first to go), now they want protection from Bangladesh too?

And here’s Peter Mandelson, following up that act:

The EU’s refusal to further cut its farm subsidies and import tariffs has been blamed by many delegates for the current deadlock in the WTO’s so-called Doha round of trade negotiations. Poor nations say trade barriers protecting the agricultural markets in the EU, U.S. and other wealthy nations block their exports and stunt their economic growth.

But EU trade chief Peter Mandelson defended the 25-nation bloc’s position, telling WTO delegates that the EU has offered generous cuts in its agricultural trade barriers. The EU has said it won’t offer further concessions until poorer nations offer to open up their industrial and services markets to foreign competition.

Not that poorer nations shouldn’t open up their industrial and services markets — for their own good. But doesn’t it sound a bit bratty that here we are in the middle of a development round and Mandelson is insisting that the developing countries put more on the table?


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