New parliamentary report on the trade negotiations

The House of Commons International Development Committee has just published a very sensible and well-informed report which attacks the UK and EU negotiating strategy on the Doha trade round.

They attack the EU for trying to negotiate a "grand bargain" between the rich countries and the global south:

We consider that the Government is on the one hand defending the right of developing countries to choose their own policies, while at the same time arguing that movement in EU agriculture, which is crucial for the developing countries, is dependent on certain developing countries providing greater access to their nonagricultural markets and making offers in services. Neither the Commission nor the UK should be pressing developing countries in this way, nor should they be making EU policies dependent on actions of the developing countries. This is contrary to the idea of a development round in general and to the idea of policy space more specifically.

The EU position comes in for particular criticism:

We consider that the Commission has been inconsistent
in its advice to the developing countries. The Commission’s refusal
to practice what it preaches in respect of liberalisation threatens
the EU negotiating position. The Commission would have much greater
credibility in the eyes of developing countries if it were more
consistent. The attempt to argue that further liberalisation of
European agriculture would be harmful to the interests of the
G90 is disingenuous. The EU made a commitment to a development
round which would redress the imbalances of previous rounds by
opening its agricultural markets for developing countries. It
should not attempt to renege on this. The Commission’s offer was
insufficient to move the negotiations forward. The grand bargain
which the EU sought — with progress in agriculture being
dependent on access to developing country and US markets —
was a ‘northern agenda’ and not a development one. The Government’s
support for it was a negation of its commitment not to force liberalisation
on developing countries.  …

The Commission position must change, and there is good reason
for the Commission to act pre-emptively on this since, in the
WTO, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Such action
would demonstrate leadership and political commitment to a development
round. The developing countries have much to gain from an ambitious
outcome. The EU must not become the cause of failure.

This report is an excellent primer for anyone who wants to understand the current trade negotiations.  It is an example of the British Parliament at its best: a serious, well-informed look at the issues, reaching a cross-party consensus with clear, practical recommendations.  The Committee could easily have taken a short-term, narrow view, dominated by protectionist instincts; instead it recognises the UK’s broader and longer-term national interest in the the successful completion of a trade round which could contribute to economic growth in developing countries.  The report is a damning indictment of both EU and UK policy.

2 thoughts on “New parliamentary report on the trade negotiations”

  1. Sigh, but from the quotes above they still haven’t grasped the truth. The reason we want to get rid of the agricultural (as well as all other) protections is that they make us poorer than we would be without them.

  2. Tim

    They don’t say that explicitly, but they show every sign not buying the argument that we should only stop throwing rocks in our harbour when our trading partners stop throwing rocks in theirs.


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