The finger-pointing has begun, said The Economist. Seven years of global trade talks ended in failure last week, when the parties admitted they could not reach an agreement and suspended the talks. The World Trade Organization negotiations—known as the Doha round because they began in Doha, Qatar, in 2001—were supposed to come up with a treaty limiting tariffs and subsidies, to make the global marketplace more equitable for poor and rich countries alike. Trade ministers meeting in Geneva last week were close to a deal, but then the whole thing fell apart over a disagreement between the U.S. on one side and India and China on the other over farm import rules—which allow countries to protect poor farmers by imposing temporary tariffs during times of high imports. India and China wanted such tariffs to be allowed more easily, while the U.S. wanted them to be much more rare. You could blame India and China, which “must have known they were asking for too much.” But “America has some answering to do, too.” The tariff issue, “though a mountain to India, was surely a molehill to a country of America’s wealth.”
You certainly can’t blame India, said the Delhi Business Standard. Remember, the Doha trade negotiations were convened seven years ago specifically to address the needs of India and other developing countries. These countries “felt rightly that they had been shortchanged” in the previous round of trade negotiations, the nine-year effort that ended in 1995 with the creation of the World Trade Organization. The goal of the Doha round “was that the developed countries would open up trade in agriculture, by lowering duties and/or reducing trade-distorting subsidies.” They failed to do so.
The U.S. is simply “selfish,” said Ming Jinwei in a commentary for the Chinese news agency Xinhua. It maintains “huge agricultural subsidies that distort international trade,” yet it pressures developing countries such as China to open their markets. In its intransigence, the U.S. was fighting merely for “even greater profits for its farmers and businesses,” while the developing countries were negotiating for their farmers’ very survival. “It is absolutely clear which is more important and which is less so.”
The failure of the talks is actually a win for the U.S., said Jamie Smyth in the Dublin Irish Times. The last item on the agenda—one that negotiators never got to—was U.S. cotton subsidies. Farmers in several African countries are “being pushed to the brink of economic ruin” because they cannot compete with American cotton farmers “based in the politically important Southern U.S. states,” who get $1 billion in subsidies from the U.S. government. Now that the talks have so conveniently collapsed, the U.S. won’t have to trim those subsidies one bit. Ultimately, the trade talks fell apart for one overarching reason: “an unwillingness by Washington to accept any deal that requires sacrifices to be made by its own citizens.”
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