International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

September 9, 2003

September 9, 2003





**  Cancun can be "decisive" for world trade but only if "tough compromises" are made.


**  Prospects for agriculture--the "most important and intractable" issue--are "gloomy."


**  Critics suggest U.S.-EU preparatory talks "show consideration" only for First World needs.


**  Though the deal on generic drugs was a "welcome concession," critics dismiss it as "hype."




Cancun will be the 'moment of truth' for free trade, the Doha round's 'last chance'-- Indian, Brazilian and South African dailies advocated taking an "aggressive posture" on Doha's "unfinished business."  If Cancun does not "mark a mid-course correction in the Doha round," warned India's centrist Hindu, the completion of WTO talks by January 2005 "will be very much in doubt."  Doubts prevail about concrete results, so the "best outcome" that is possible, said Johannesburg's balanced Business Day, would be "an agreement to continue the dialogue." 


Agriculture to dominate negotiations, but prospects for a fair deal 'do not look good'-- Commentators worldwide have low expectations for progress on agriculture, with leftist dailies sounding the alarm that developing countries are about to be "sold down the river again."  A centrist German paper urged industrialized nations to "keep their promise" of fair trading conditions, but Brazil's center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo predicted that "the most important groups" will arrive in Cancun "without any willingness for an accord to reform agricultural trade."  Even stalwart believers that trade liberalization is a "win-win game for all" insisted, as did Britain's conservative Times, that "nothing will be achieved unless the U.S. and EU make a serious start on slashing their domestic farm subsidies, cutting barriers to agricultural imports and phasing out...the indefensible export subsidies."


U.S.-EU preparing the ground, but 'ruthlessly single-minded'--  At first glance, the U.S. and EU appeared to be "making progress" in the future of world trade during their preparatory talks, but skeptics found the "behind-closed doors" dealings a "perfidious" approach that excluded developing countries.  A South African writer chided the economic powerhouses for "acting ruthlessly" to advance their "own narrow interests."  Echoing the typical resentment, Pakistan's independent Nation announced that "the two biggest economic blocs are at it again, holding the world economy hostage by making a secret...pact to serve their own needs."


TRIPS drug compromise: 'good start' or 'hype'?--  Although the agreement on generic drugs was "not perfect," African dailies considered it an "encouraging development" with "far-reaching positive implications" for the region.  The government-owned New Nigerian emphasized that by its "spectacular" decision to stop "stonewalling negotiations" at the WTO, Washington was facilitating a deal that would enable poor countries to "import cheap copies" of drug for "killer diseases."  Though the accord was a "welcome concession," skeptics downplayed it as a "sideshow," since in the run-up to Cancun "the tiniest of agreements are surrounded by hype."


EDITOR:  Irene Marr

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This report is based on 53 reports from 24 countries, August 14-Septemer 9.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Snow Falling In China"


The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (9/5):  "In search of a scapegoat for an American economic revival that was promised but not yet materialized, the Bush administration has alighted upon China's success as the reason for its failure....  Unfair competition is the refrain from Washington....  [Treasury Secretary] John Snow swung into Beijing this week determined to change Chinese policy, most notably on exchange rates....  China's accession to the World Trade Organization means the next four years will see big changes in the country's economy--many of them will be painful and harder to bear if the U.S. treats China as more foe than friend....  China's trade has benefited America in many ways....  The truth is that trade imposes costs and generates benefits for all.  All that Mr. Bush's rhetoric exposes is that in an interdependent world no nation, not even America, can exist in splendid isolation."


"Drug Resistance"


The independent pro-business Financial Times editorialized (8/29):  "Most people would applaud measures to keep down the price of medicines for the poor.  The accord presented yesterday to the ruling general council of the WTO promises to do just that.  However, in the run-up to the WTO ministerial meeting at Cancun next month, the tiniest of agreements are surrounded by hype....  Yesterday’s accord was originally on the table last December but was blocked by the U.S., which feared the consequences for its pharmaceuticals industry....  Agreement now, albeit months behind schedule, is a welcome concession from the U.S.  But this deal is a sideshow....  Cheap medicine is less important that the health system that administers it.  The most heavily politicized drugs of all, retroviral medicines that fight HIV/AIDS, remain more expensive and less effective than the humble condom.  With or without the enforcement of patents, drug companies have no incentive to develop medicine for those who cannot afford to pay.  This deal will not change that; and the international community should be exploring new ways to pay for the development of drugs for diseases of the poor.  But this is beyond the remit of the WTO."


"Freer Trade"


An editorial in the conservative Times stated on (8/27): “Snail-racing has never quite caught on as a spectator sport, and global trade negotiations are their political equivalent....  Since nothing is agreed until all the World Trade Organisation’s member states reach consensus on the whole, they drag on for years. Yet over the past 50 years, no other international process has done more to generate prosperity for millions and broaden their horizons of opportunity and choice....  The verdict is decisive: a liberal trading regime is a win-win game for all players....  At Cancun, nothing will be achieved unless the United States and EU make a serious start on slashing their domestic farm subsidies, cutting barriers to agricultural imports and phasing out - which the EU, unlike the U.S., refuses to contemplate - the indefensible export subsidies used to dump farm surpluses on world markets at prices below production costs....  A deal could, however, be scuppered by the emergence of a new alliance within the WTO of four big countries, China, Brazil, India and South Africa...these four insist that even if the US and EU stop subsidising their farm exports, they must be allowed to protect their own farmers behind high tariff walls....  Before joining the WTO two years ago, China went through a crash course in the virtues of free trade, but it still has much to learn. India is not the best teacher, nor is Brazil....  Beijing could exert real leverage in these negotiations; but only if it considers more carefully where its true interest lies.”


"Kicking The Subsidies: Third World Farmers Need A Fair Deal"


The leftist Guardian editorialized (8/18):  "Developing countries are about to be sold down the river again and hardly anyone seems to care enough to do anything about it.  It is now only a few weeks before the crucial World Trade Organization (WTO) trade talks open in Cancun, Mexico.... The risk of a walk-out by developing countries grows daily....   A joint commitment to cap the amount of direct payments to farmers to 5% of output sounds good.  But it ignores the fact that there has been a parallel explosion of payments linked to other factors such as land ownership or past production levels.  This merely preserves the featherbedding in a form less under the control of the WTO....  There is only one way to deal with this.  Make it simple and effective.  Abolish all agricultural subsidies so that every proposed reform doesn't generate new escape routes that negate its primary purpose."


GERMANY:  "Globalization For The Poor"


Nikolaus Piper noted in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (9/8):  "The liberalization of agricultural trade is the most important contribution to the development of the Third World that the industrialized countries can make today.  No development assistance will be able to achieve the things that prospering markets are able to achieve.  Liberalization also helps the industrialized countries, but it requires major adaptations.  It is clear that Europe's farmers will feel the effects of a further opening of markets....  It is not understandable that globalization critics in Germany and France are mainly opposed to a free trade with agricultural products.  This policy is directed against the interests of the Third World.  But the cause of free trade has one strategic disadvantage:  the ones who profit the most from protectionism are the ones who are able to organize themselves better than anyone else as beneficiaries of the international division of labor.  The first are a few, the latter are many, and the advantage of the one side lies in the present, while the one of the others lies in the future, and cannot be documented.  But possibly Cancun will enter the history books as a conference which succeeded in balancing this deficit in the long run.  The chances for a globalization to the benefit of the poor have never been as good as today."


"Who Is Able To Act Freely?"


Dagmar Dehmer said in a front-page editorial in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (9/8):  "The export subsidies and export loans with which the EU and the United States subsidize their surpluses thus ruining global prizes are especially controversial.  There is no trace of free trade, let alone justice.  Critics are also right with their statement that free trade is, in general, not useful for the poor.  And the allegation that in the end everybody will profit from free trade can only become a reality if such deficiencies are corrected.  But, nevertheless, there would be no reason to be pleased at a failure of the WTO talks in Cancun.  Every multilateral agreement is better than unfair bilateral agreements between unequal negotiating partners.  The developing nations would have no chance if they acted alone....  The living conditions of the poor, the environment, and the consumers' freedom of choice must be kept in mind and respected.  The United Nations has the goal of halving hunger by 2015.  This would also be an honorable goal for the WTO.  The path to this goal leads via fair trading conditions for the developing nations.  The industrialized nations must keep their promise.  And this can hardly be too much."


"Pills For Africa"


Business  Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (8/25) editorialized: "TRIPS, the WTO agreement on trade aspects of intellectual property, has thus far prevented developing nations from importing cheap drugs....  So far, the United States has always opposed softening patent rights under the pressure from U.S. pharmaceutical industry.  But two weeks before the Cancun WTO conference, the Americans have wrestle through and accepted a compromise….  This compromise will do justice to the position of both sides.  It shows consideration for the legitimate interests of the pharmaceutical industry, which finances with profits from patented drugs for its future research efforts.  And, at the same time, the poorest are not left in a lurch.  With this narrowing of differences, the chances are increasing that the WTO meeting in Cancun will become a success.  But the United States and Europe should not think that they have now served their purpose.  The liberalization of agricultural markets has not been completed --and in this respect the West must move."


"Pulling In The Same Direction"


Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine opined (8/15): "In one month, the meeting of the so-called Doha round will begin in Cancún.  For a long time, a debacle was looming for this conference, because the preparatory talks got bogged down.  But all of a sudden these talks get going.  First, there was a new proposal to cut industrial tariffs and now the United States and the EU have presented a draft for agricultural reform.  The biggest stumbling blocks for the Doha round have not yet been removed, and the controversy over tariffs and agricultural subsidies will characterize the negotiations, but two things give reason for hope: developing nations have not rejected the proposal right away, and America and the EU are pulling in the same direction."


"Trade Change"


Ernst August Ginten editorialized in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (8/15):  "Despite the narrowing of views, the path to a further liberalization of global trade is still very long, since the discussion still has to focus on concrete figures, and a bitter dispute cannot be ruled out.  But there is reason for hope since the EU Commission recently succeeded in bringing about a fundamental change in the EU's agricultural policy....  But this does not eliminate the deplorable fact that all industrialized countries still pump 300 billion dollars of taxpayers' money in their agriculture....  The talks in Cancún deserve the label 'development round' only if this deplorable state is eliminated as soon as possible."


"Height Of Diplomacy"


Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau argued (8/14): "In the preparatory stages of the Cancun meeting, something is totally going wrong.  The representatives of developing nations and NGOs are right to criticize the way in which such compromises between the two biggest trading blocs are negotiated in backrooms.   An enormous deficit of transparency and democratic control is surfacing.  The United States and the EU have learned their lessons form the negotiating marathon of the Uruguay round.  Only when the two were able to find an agreement behind closed doors, a successful conclusion of the talks could be reported.  Since then guidelines are agreed upon in bilateral talks.  The perfidious thing with such an approach is that Europeans and Americans show consideration [only] for the needs of the each other's side...and for the rest pressure will increase to say 'yes.'  These smaller nations are fighting a losing battle against this economic power of the industrialized nations.  From the viewpoint of the wirepullers in the North, this system is efficient.  But for the majority of developing nations this is only the height of diplomacy."


ITALY:  "World Trade, China And Brazil Sound The Charge"


A scene-setter in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (9/9): “This time, there will be a novelty: developing nations have no intention of dancing to the music of the United States and the European Union.  Brazil, India, China and South Africa, in particular, have raised the ante over the last few weeks and have achieved an unprecedented degree of agreement on agricultural issues.  So much so that, according to commentators, the failure or the success of the Cancun summit will depend on custom duties on agricultural products and on the aid that rich nations provide to their farmers....  One of the issues on the table, U.S.-EU relations, consists for the time being a two-party agreement on agriculture, mainly a proposal for the reduction of the distortions that subsidies created in international trade of agricultural products.  The question among the negotiators, however, is the strength of the agreement.  How much more will USTR Robert Zoellick be able to concede during the negotiations, given that he must deal with an agricultural lobby which is up in arms, on the eve of an electoral year?”


"Race Against Time In Cancun"


Leading business Il Sole-24 Ore (9/9) previews the Cancun summit as follows: “Participants in the Cancun summit will face the anxiety of achieving a difficult success: to reconcile the need of re-launching world trade with that of respecting national interests.  Or, to say the same thing in a different way, to reconcile long-term advantages with immediate advantages.”


BELGIUM:  "The Verhofstadt Government Explains Its Position For The Cancun Summit"


Philippe Regnier wrote in left-of-center Le Soir (9/8):  “The Belgian Liberal-Socialist coalition is traveling to Cancun with a few Belgian objectives....  [The Belgian delegates] have been asked to insist on the promotion of workers’ fundamental rights in the framework of trade agreements--although this question is not on the agenda.... The Belgian Government stated that ‘it considers the WTO as a crucial instrument for the realization of a fair multilateral trade system that, by combining opening of markets with appropriate regulation, must contribute to economic growth, to development, and to addressing the challenges of globalization.’  For instance, Belgium considers it important to ‘take coherent and substantial measures’ in Cancun to help poor countries in their often painful immersion in the universe of international trade.”


HUNGARY: “Progress Enhanced Or Discouraged In Cancun?”


Columbia University Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz stressed in an op-ed in influential Hungarian business daily Vilaggazdasag (9/4):“The real risk [of the upcoming WTO round in Cancun] is that it will not only fail to eliminate the existing inequalities but will even create new ones.”


IRELAND:  "Clouds Gather Before Cancun Starts"


Denis Staunton wrote in the center-left Irish Times (9/5):  “Accusations are flying even before talks begin....  The air is already thick with recriminations.  Developing countries accuse the rich world, led by the EU, the U.S. and Japan, of betraying their promise to make this round of negotiations a 'development round'....  Rich countries complain that the developing countries are making unrealistic demands that could wreck any chance of finding common ground at Cancun....  Next week's talks will focus on 20 issues, including industrial tariffs, access to medicines for poor countries and rules governing foreign investment.  The most important and intractable issue is agriculture, but nothing can be agreed in any sector without an overall agreement on an entire package....  The EU argues that it has already taken important steps towards abolishing trade-distorting subsidies by agreeing to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)....  Developing countries are unhappy about a number of EU proposals, however, notably an attempt to establish enforceable rules to protect foreign investment.”


NORWAY:  "High Stakes For World Trade"


Per Nordrum commented in the newspaper-of-record Aftenposten (9/8):  “Tough compromises are demanded if the WTO ministerial meeting in Mexico this week shall work as a sorely needed shot in the arm for a fragile and vulnerable world economy.  What is demanded above all is that the rich industrialized countries finally refrain from using their power to overpower developing countries.  Developing countries said yes to the so-called Doha-round after assurances that it really would be a ‘development round,’ discussions that took special consideration of developing countries.  The moment of truth comes in Cancun.”






Jeddah's English-language pro-government Saudi Gazette stated (9/2):  "Many Saudi economists agree that the Kingdom--in fact the whole Muslim World--must not 'miss the bus' again, as it did at the time of the Industrial Revolution.  These economists believe that the countries left out of the WTO will not be able to survive economically, let alone prosper....  There is no denying that a major factor for economic development for Saudi Arabia is to create jobs for Saudis.  But at the same time, it must be noted that the WTO is not going to work on a 'socialist model' where everything is decided and controlled by the state....  It must create an atmosphere that encourages local private entrepreneurs to succeed.  The SEC should make sure local investors are also offered similar terms that are offered to foreign investors."




PHILIPPINES:  "Making Open Trade Work For The Poor" 


An opinion piece by Asian Development Bank economist Douglas Brooks in the independent Philippine Daily Inquirer held (8/26):  “Increased access to, and less competition from, developed markets would be a huge boon to most developing economies.…To make the most of these opportunities for the poor, developing countries need to adopt policies that promote macroeconomic stability...or enhance labor market flexibility, competitive product markets, transparency, a realistic exchange rate and nondiscriminatory treatment of foreign investors.…It is important to remember that...not all trade-related effects on poverty are necessarily positive...making social safety nets essential to ease the transition.…A true development round of trade liberalization, complemented by domestic reforms in developing countries, has tremendous potential for improving hundreds of millions of lives.”


THAILAND:  "Japan, Korea Must Save World Trade"


The independent, English language Nation argued (9/8):  “Both the United States and the European Union, of late, have tried to lay the groundwork for the success of the World Trade Organization, the body that maintains the current world trading pact.  Both have reached an 11th-hour agreement on a framework to cut tariffs and reduce subsidies to their already very wealthy farm sector.  While the proposals from both blocs should be treated with caution since the details remain vague and strong resistance for eventual changes must be ratified separately by the U.S. Congress and by each member nation of the EU, the framework agreed upon by Brussels and Washington is a welcome sign.  Now it is important that Japan and South Korea, both of which have highly protected and heavily subsidized farm sectors, come out from the sidelines and commit themselves to move world trade forward.  The political leaders of both of these nations must abandon their usual excuses about their strong farm lobbies and have the courage to do what it takes to sustain a positive global trading environment.”




INDIA:  "Decision Time At Cancun"


An editorial in the centrist  Hindu (9/6): “The fifth ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in Cancun is the last chance for the 146 member-countries to impart a true development dimension to the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).  If Cancun does not mark a mid-course correction in the Doha round, the completion of the WTO talks by the scheduled date of January 2005 will be very much in doubt. If the Doha round is to live up to its name, then Cancun will have to see meaningful progress in three areas. First, the WTO conference must signal that the broad interests of developing countries - will be addressed up front in the Doha round. Secondly, the development dimensions of trade as reflected in high tariffs on products exported by the developing countries have to be addressed with greater urgency.  Thirdly, it is meaningless to talk about a development agenda in the Doha round and pressure the developing countries to agree to take on new responsibilities that are not connected to trade.   If Cancun were to see the launch of formal talks on investment and three other new issues, it would be one more nail in the coffin of the DDA. Unfortunately, the draft ministerial declaration prepared for the Cancun meeting does not signal any change of direction. It is now up to the assembly of Ministers at Cancun to decide whether they wish to signal that the Doha round cannot further the interests of only a select group of powerful economies.”


"What's In WTO For Us?"


An analysis in the centrist  Indian Express by Gopal Krishna Agarwal stated (9/6):  “The WTO is about negotiations in international trade.  It is not a unilateral charter of demands, it is not our wish list. In any trade negotiations we have to proceed from the present stage keeping in mind our long-term objectives. To accomplish our goals we should enter into strategic alliance with developing countries with similar concerns.  Our emphasis should be on translating the spirit of the Doha declaration in order to protect the interests of these countries. We have to protect our agriculture, retail trade and small-scale sector from the onslaught of international manufacturers. The true benefit of the WTO will be achieved in the services sector. We have to push for the opening up of the services sector under Mode 3 and Mode 4.  Recent attempts by developed countries to push additional agenda items called Singapore issues...too should be resisted. The notion that India stands to lose under the WTO regime stems from an under-estimation of our abilities. We always talk of our glorious past; this is an opportune time to realize it. India today is not what it was some twenty, twenty-five years back. We should sit together, apply our minds, identify our strengths and weaknesses and negotiate accordingly. The WTO can be a catalyst in the process of reverse imperialism.”


"Good Economics, Poor Politics"


Manoj Pant held in pro-economic-reform the Economic Times (9/5):  "Next week at this time the Cancun ministerial of the WTO will be in full swing....  Right or wrong, developing countries have already tied themselves to a discussion of the Singapore issues.  To now argue that investment will not be discussed is not a smart thing to do.  However, it is also clear that the commitment is only to discuss 'the modalities of an investment agreement....  Among the Singapore issues investment is probably one where the developing country position is the strongest.  This should be exploited.  In any case, the opponents of the MAI (multilateral agreement on investment) make their case very weak when they point out that developed countries have themselves used restrictive FDI policies in the past.  The basic purpose of trade and investment agreements is to correct the mistakes of history not to perpetuate them."


"Let's Do The Cancun"


An editorial in the centrist Indian Express asserted (9/1):  “Many of the issues raised by India and the developing world have been internalized in the thinking within the WTO.  However, there is a momentum to trade liberalization that the developed nations have maintained and it is time India took a pragmatic view of what benefits us and what does not. It is wrong to imagine that trade liberalization is something India opposes and the developed countries propose.  As in the case of trade in services and agriculture, India is today seeking greater liberalization and reduction of trade-distorting subsidies that the EU wants in place.  Similarly, on non-tariff barriers like linking trade to non-trade policies, it is India that is ahead of the US.  However, there are still areas where India must move forward.   It must further reduce tariffs and promote a more trade-friendly policy regime at home.... A dilution of the US position on pharmaceutical patents in the interests of public health will also be welcomed.... India can afford to ease up on some issues like trade facilitation and competition policy.  But accepting an investment agreement is not yet in India’s interest.... Our political class continues to be misled into thinking the WTO is an unhelpful institution. Far from it, India more than most developing economies needs such a multilateral institution to best protect its national interests.”


"An IPR Agenda For India At Cancun"


Suman Sahai provided this analysis in the pro-economic-reforms Economic Times asserted (9/1):  “India needs to understand one central truth in all its WTO negotiations and that is that the agriculture and food sector have to be protected at all costs simply because the livelihood of several million Indians depends on it. This will be true at Cancun and at every subsequent ministerial meeting. At Cancun we should take an aggressive posture on the unfinished Doha agenda and try to get a framework for its implementation.... India should take the position that the rights of farmers and local communities have been reiterated in other conventions, notably the CBD and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGR) and these must be reflected in the WTO....  It is unfortunate that India has chosen not to support the proposal of the Africa Group...for an outright ban on patents on all life forms.... This is a proposal very much in the interest of developing countries.  India should raise the issue of patents on life forms at Cancun and join the other countries and civil society groups in supporting the Africa Group’s position....  India must move aggressively at Cancun to garner support for the commitment increase the ambit of protection offered under Article 23 of TRIPs.... The Indian strategy should aim to isolate the U.S. with the support of the EU and strike independent deals with the other countries involving other issues of interest to them.”


"Mind The Fine Print"


An editorial in the  pro-economic-reforms Business Standard claimed (9/1):  “An agreement to make life-saving drugs available at affordable prices to poor countries facing health a boost to the ongoing Millennium round of trade negotiations, which will be entering a critical phase at Cancun to thrash out other contentious issues like agricultural subsidies.  The last minute roadblocks were removed after AIDS and malaria afflicted African countries, the main beneficiaries of the agreement, asked the rest of the world to see it through.... When the agreement was signed they thought they had got something but the way it unraveled has left them hugely disappointed.  So a battle remains, to ensure that rules and procedures do not defeat the purpose of the agreement.”


"Cancun And Doha Round Prospects"


An analysis in the centrist Hindu by Muchkund Dubey observed (8/18):  "The main task of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Cancun...will be to review the progress in the Doha Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations launched two years ago and scheduled to be concluded by January 1, 2005.... The Doha Round was called the Development Round.  In reality, it was a misnomer intended to placate the developing countries in order to get their approval for pursuing the Singapore issues.... The idea was to begin negotiations on these issues at Cancun.... There is no evidence of progress on any of these issues.... The developing countries attach great importance to the liberalization of trade in agricultural products.... India is in a somewhat different position from other developing countries in that it has an interest in seeking access in Mode IV of service supply, that is, through the movement of skilled persons.... India's gains are likely to be... largely in market access for industrial goods and some opening up in Mode IV supply of services.... It is extremely important for India to continue and accelerate the process of active coalition building at all levels before and during the Cancun Conference."


PAKISTAN: "Promulgation Of WTO Provisions"


The centrist English-language News (9/5): External auditors of multinational companies (MNCs) have been directed and authorized to conduct a 'statutory audit' of all business dealings conducted on the basis of 'transfer pricing'.  Sources at the Ministry of Finance disclosed that in view of the expected promulgation of the WTO provisions regarding Export-Import (EXIM) trade in 2004, it is likely that the net outflow of precious foreign exchange would increase substantially.  This would be because the export-import business of MNCs would get additional leverage over the normal imports of the country."


"Pakistan Made to 'Behave' At Last WTO Moot"


An editorial in the centrist, English-language News (9/1):  "The U.S. government used pressure tactics at the last WTO conference in Doha in 2001 and exploited the 9/11 to silence a vocal delegation of Pakistan, making it accept the final document against the country's interests."


"Don’t Trust US-EU In World Trade Deal"


The lead editorial in independent, English language Nation read (8/25):  “At a first glance, it would appear the United States and the European Union are indeed making progress together for the future of world trade.  Their farm and trade ministers struck an agreement, which was announced to the world, that would herald a new round of successful trade talks at the World Trade Organization.  But one has to be extremely cautious of this kind of development.  It seems the two biggest economic blocs are at it again, holding the world economy hostage by making a secret and compromising pact to serve their own ends.... The irony of the world trade negotiations is that the U.S. is not going after the new trade round with the same fervor that the Bush administration showed in its war against Saddam Hussein and France and Germany in their strong and uncompromising opposition to the war.  And then there is always the alternative track, the free-trade agreement, a card which the developed nations play close to their chests with great skill.  A future of free trade to look forward to?  Or will it be a lost decade for developing nations?  Remember the Trojan Horse!”




KENYA:  "WTO Victory On AIDS Drugs"


Independent left-of-center Nation maintained (8/29):  “The deal struck yesterday by the WTO to allow poorer nations to obtain more affordable AIDS drugs is not perfect.  But the very fact that we have come that far is testimony to the effectiveness of a campaign that finally convinced the world that human life must be put before the profits of the pharmaceutical industry....  We were also among the five countries--alongside Brazil and India, the major generic drug manufacturers, the U.S., representing the West and the pharmaceutical companies, and South Africa--that hammered out the new accord....  No one doubts that the recent medical advances in the fight against the pandemic and wider access to drugs present mankind with the best prospects yet of conquering it.  But there must be no room for complacency.  Even the newest and most advanced drugs do not provide a cure.  They simply keep the effects of AIDS at bay--but with the virus still in the body and capable of being passed.”


NIGERIA:  "A Positive Gesture" 


Federal government-owned New Nigerian stated (9/3):  "Only on rare occasions has the United States used its superpower status for purely altruistic purposes.  Two such rare chances both came this year, surprisingly.  The first was early May this year when President George W. Bush got Congress to give his 15-billion dollar package to fight HIV/AIDS in 12 African countries fast-track passage....  But perhaps more spectacular was America's decision no longer to stonewall negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva for a review of patent laws sought by developing countries....  Washington dropped its opposition to a deal that would enable poor countries to import cheap copies of branded  drugs for the treatment of killer diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis."


SOUTH AFRICA:  "A Hungry Man Is an angry man"


The liberal, independent Natal Witness remarked (9/8): "President Thabo Mbeki made a quite startling observation during his three-day visit to Malaysia this week. Referring to next week's round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, he said: (Protesters) may act in ways that you and I would not like -- breaking windows...but the message they are communicating relates to us.  Those are fairly blunt words. They reveal the level of frustration, even anger, of developing countries with the world's economic powerhouses. These are regarded as acting ruthlessly and singlemindedly to advance their own narrow interests, callously refusing to take on board the economic well-being of less-developed countries....  There are many issues underlying his comments: restrictions on access to Western markets, the agricultural subsidies of rich countries, and patents which keep the cost of drugs high....  At some stage, something will have to give. And hunger is a powerful mobilising force, as our own experience in South Africa has shown.  That is the frightening implication of Mbeki's words--they should be seen as a warning, rather than a threat. It would be wise to pay attention."


"Drugs For The Poor"


Afro-centric Sowetan commented (9/2):  "It would be right to welcome this weekend's agreement, which grants access to generic drugs that could boost the capacity of poor countries to fight diseases like HIV/Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis....  Crucially though, the extent to which poor Africa benefits from the agreement depends largely on the political will among countries with the capacity--namely Brazil, South Africa and India--to produce generic versions of expensive patented medicines for export purposes....  It must be remembered that the WTO's weekend decision--while important--does not represent the significant development beyond what was allowed in terms of the TRIPS deal....  South Africa would first have to amend local patent protection laws, to take full advantage of the WTO agreement.  Unless it does, the weekend amendments to WTO patent regulations could only make access for poorer countries more difficult than it already is."


"Towards Cancun"


Balanced Business Day remarked (9/2):  "After years of debate, the WTO's 146 nations have achieved...the unanimity needed to adopt a common position....  But while this is all good stuff, it is a pity that it has taken until the end of last month for the issue to be finalized....  It doesn't augur well for next week's WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun where issues far more complex and important to the EU and the U.S. than the plight of the world's poorer citizens will be tackled.  As has been the case for decades, agriculture will again be the key issue on the Cancun agenda....  At the moment, the prospects for progress on agriculture do not look good.  Already, efforts are underway to downplay expectations for Cancun, and the best outcome that currently looks possible is an agreement to continue the dialogue....  What that would mean, however, is that the current unfair global trading environment...will remain until there is a deal."


TANZANIA:  "WTO Must Not Become A New Club For The Rich And Powerful"


The English-language weekly broadsheet Business Times judged (9/5):  “For far too long, countries in Africa--as well as other developing countries elsewhere--have been holding the short end of the stick in international trade and, especially, in agricultural exports....  In its present from, WTO has a two-pronged approach.  One is that of a forum to settle disputes among trade rivals in an ever expanding arena of international trade.....  HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB are claiming lives by the million each year, most of them in the developing world.  Hundreds of millions more stare death in the face over a breathtakingly short period unless and until the holders of patents to the drugs required to avert a global disaster are more forthcoming--and sooner than later.  This is where WTO comes in.  The organization must step into the breach anon if it is to justify and demonstrate its raison d'etre....  What we have to guard against, however, is the organization turning into a club for the rich and powerful--much like so many other multilateral entities (which shall remain unnamed here) that have tended to slide under the beck and call of the rich and mighty."


"The WTO Is Just A Capitalist With A Human Face"


Johnson Mbwambo commented in Kishwahili, left-of center Rai (9/4):  “I would not be wrong to predict that the Cancun meeting will offer nothing new to bring hope to the people of the Third World.  One doesn’t have to be an astrologer to predict this.  Ever since the WTO was established 17 years ago, it has lost its initial vision and hopes that poor countries will be treated fairly are still a distant dream.  When the WTO was established, many developing countries rushed to join, because they had high hopes that it would help solve trade conflicts between poor and rich countries, and that it would facilitate access of goods from the south into the markets of the industrialized countries.  But, like the other big financial institutions--the World Bank and the IMF, the WTO is now there to serve the interests of the rich countries, especially those of the United States of America.  Therefore, WTO meetings like the one that will take place in Cancun have turned into a battlefield between the U.S. and its capitalist friends on the one hand, and the poor countries on the other hand.  As usual, the winner of such economic battles is always the United States of America.  But since the major agenda in the U.S. now is the fight against terrorism....   America will not let our ministers come back home empty-handed.  But they will have to fight very hard even for that little bit.”


ZIMBABWE:  "SA Drugs Deal With WTO Noble"


The pro-government weekly Sunday Mirror editorialized (9/7):  “The Southern African region should give a round of applause to the WTO for striking a drug manufacturing and importation deal with South Africa.  Under the deal, South Africa is set to become a major manufacturer of pharmaceuticals for the rest of Africa.  The recently signed accord will enable African countries facing public health crises and without the capacity to manufacture generic drugs, to import them from South Africa.  This development has far-reaching positive implications for Southern Africa.  The region is the worst hit by HIV/Aids, with South Africa itself and Botswana said to be leading the pack in Africa. . .If South Africa were to manufacture ARVs wholesale, its neighbors would access them relatively easily and this would go a long way in stemming the pandemic that has already claimed millions of lives in the region.  It is encouraging that the accord specifically indicates that manufactured drugs would be available at accessible prices.  In this regard, the pharmaceutical deal goes beyond pure entrepreneurial considerations; it takes on a social responsibility dimension.  In addition, most of the countries in the region have poor health delivery systems owing to the struggling economies.  They would no longer need to travel far and wide to obtain vital but scarce drugs.”  




CANADA:  "On The Line In Cancun"


The leading Globe and Mail opined (9/9): "The 146 trade ministers gathering in Cancun for a crucial meeting tomorrow are playing a high-stakes poker game that may well determine whether the world continues on the path toward greater trade liberalization or steps back into a dark and dangerous era of protectionism.... WTO members easily reached a consensus that farm trade barriers had to be reduced. They seemed to understand that without an end to subsidized competition and freer access for their farm products, which account for the bulk of their exports, poor countries are destined to remain dependent on aid for survival. But as the developing countries had feared, the world's wealthy producers have failed to live up to their promises to make significant cuts in up to $300-billion (U.S.) worth of annual farm subsidies.... The World Bank calculates that a 'good' outcome to the Doha Round could produce annual income gains of up $520-billion for haves and have-nots and rescue more than 140 million people from poverty within a decade. Failure could mean a renewed focus on regional trading blocs and bilateral deals, ending any chance of achieving a level global playing field. With so much at stake, it's time for the poker players to end their dangerous gamesmanship and find a reasonable compromise that will resuscitate the talks."


"WTO: The Rich Get More"


Columnist Paul Knox commented in the leading Globe and Mail (8/27): "[I]f globalization is a win-win no-brainer, why are international trade negotiations in such a mess? There's continued pessimism about the chances of a comprehensive free-trade-area-of-the-Americas deal clicking into place on schedule at the beginning of 2005. That's also the deadline for finishing the Doha Round of negotiations under the World Trade Organization, and Doha isn't shaping up as a slam dunk either.  Sharp splits among rich and poor countries, and those in between, will be exposed next month at a key meeting of WTO ministers in Cancun, Mexico....  Social activists have worked hard the past few years to challenge the notion that globally integrated markets will necessarily bring prosperity to the poor. Maybe they should relax. No one is working harder to discredit globalization than the representatives of rich countries at the WTO. When you cut through the verbiage, the message from the First World is this: globalization when it works for us; self-interest when it doesn't."


ARGENTINA: "Bielsa Supports The Patents Law Amendment"


Gustavo Ybarra, political columnist of daily-of-record La Nacion wrote (9/3): "At a joint meeting of three (Argentine) Senate committees, (Argentine) Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa expressed 'the Government's strong wish' to witness the approval of the patents law's amendment, which was agreed upon last year by the Duhalde administration and the USG at the WTO. Even though the government's bid is not part of the package of Congressional priorities asked for by the IMF, it is a clear gesture of the Argentine Government toward the US, one of the promoters of reaching a fast deal in order to postpone the imminent due dates of the Argentine foreign debt with the IMF....  The initiative implies an alignment of the patents law...with the international standards called for by the WTO. In this sense, (the patent law's amendment) would allow for the extension of the patent covering the manufacture procedure to the product. It modifies procedural aspects in conflicts due to the illegal use of patents."


"Trade Negotiations"


An editorial in daily-of-record La Nacion stated (8/9):  "A key trade meeting will take place in Cancun, Mexico, September 14 thru 17, where ministers of 146 WTO nations will meet. One of the key goals for Argentina is to obtain a major reduction in farm subsidies, which is resisted by the EU, the U.S. and Japan. To give an idea of how unreal some of these proposals are, we may point out that the EU has launched an initiative aimed at reducing their farm subsidies by 60%, which in practice won't go beyond 17%.... The success of the Cancun meeting and its following steps are by no means confirmed, partly by the resistance of industrialized countries to effectively advance the dismantling of farm subsidies. To the extent that there are many people in this country and in many others of similar production, who would rather postpone an agreement than having to sign one without obtaining any concrete benefit for their economies. Particularly if one bears in mind that, in order to change what could now be agreed upon, they would have to wait - at least - until the next."


BRAZIL:  "Towards The Battle Of Cancun"


Center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo editorialized (9/8):  "If the main delegations maintain the willingness they have shown in recent days, the upcoming WTO Ministerial Meeting may be recalled as the Battle of Cancun....  The Europeans prefer to support the proposal of agricultural negotiation they jointly prepared last month with the U.S....  Although they initially presented a more audacious proposal of agricultural reform, the Americans ended up by joining the Europeans.  Therefore, the most important groups will arrive in Cancun without any willingness for an accord to reform agricultural trade....  Pressure against Brazil is recognition that in addition to having a respectable economic weight, it does not yield easily in international negotiations....  Pascal Lamy and Robert Zoellick have said that there are other major topics to be discussed, such as industrial goods trade, services and investments, and that Brazil has resisted discussing these issues.  Such a refusal may have a tactical meaning, but the GOB should be prepared to negotiate in other areas and look for opportunities also in non-agricultural trade."


"Poker Game"


Economic columnist Celso Ming opined in center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo (9/8):  "Brazil is playing all its trump cards in the WTO negotiations.  But these negotiations are very likely to result in what Brazil does not want, i.e., a large friendly accord between the U.S. and Europe in regards to agriculture.  Even Uruguay, a Mercosul member, is acting in opposition to Mercosul's interests.... But it is not possible to state that the Cancun meeting will be a failure.  This is the moment when everyone is playing poker and is not willing to show the cards.  It's time to intimidate the adversaries in an attempt to obtain more advantages....  Only after the meeting in Cancun will the GOB redefine its strategy in regards to the other current trade negotiations: those of the FTAA and with the EU.  So far, Brazil is playing as if the FTAA should be irremediably gutted, according to Formin Celso Amorim's project of a 'light FTAA.'  Meanwhile the U.S. is also proposing what is unacceptable to Mercosul: to give differentiated treatment to group of nations within the FTAA.  But nothing is definitive so far....  The Lula da Silva administration is running the risk of becoming isolated from the rest of the world if it commits the insanity of disdaining trade accords that may in fact enlarge Brazil's foreign market."       


"Frightening Challenges In Cancun"


Economic columnist Jorge Okubaro commented in independent Jornal da Tarde (9/7):  "Enormous challenges are awaiting the WTO members in Cancun....  For two reasons, agriculture is the central question of the promise of development that supported the launching of the Doha Round: most of the world's poor people work in agriculture, and most of protectionist measures adopted worldwide are related to agricultural products....  But in response to the developing nations' attempts to discuss this so important topic, the rich nations have responded with indifference or truculence....  The enormous distance separating the rich from poor nations really makes obtaining any accord in Cancun 'a frightening challenge,' as the IRDB report says.  Prospects are really gloomy."


"Subsidies And Cynicism"


A center-left Jornal do Brasil article by businessman Antenor Barros Leal judged (9/3): "The world will only have a real debate about agricultural products market when there is a free circulation of items....  The World Trade Organization is the forum where international trade rules, questions on adoption of disloyal policies and the existence or not of dumping procedures are discussed.  There, great and small nations sit side by side trying to reduce their differences and seek market plenitude in international relations.  It's expected that the opportunity is not lost and mankind may in a near future enjoy the food abundance that only market can supply. We hope the Doha summit leaves to WTO the sole honorable mission to repair the movements of cartels and oligopolies rather than the testimony of maintaining inconsequential favors, thus giving this generation the full domain of freedom."


"Positive Accord"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo observed (9/2):  "Despite some NGOs' criticism, the international accord on generic medicines used in health emergencies that is about to be formalized seems reasonable....  Although the accord is not ideal, it is reasonable when one considers that the U.S., by looking out for the interests of its powerful pharmaceutical sector, was threatening to block the whole negotiation. This does not mean that the NGOs' criticism is not pertinent.  Depending on how the process will work in practice, the conditions for exporting, that in principle seem very reasonable, may become obstructive."


"Consensus On Generics Drugs Gives Hopes To Cancun"


Business-oriented Valor Economico noted (9/2):  "The accord reached by the WTO members on the possibility of a break in pharmaceutical patents to allow poor nations to import generic drugs has given new encouragement to the organization's ministerial meeting in Cancun.  If a consensus on this issue were not reached, it would hardly have been possible to create a climate aimed at resolving many other impasses towards a new trade accord by 2005."


"Subsidies In Outrageous Scale"


Center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo argued (9/1):  "The U.S. and the EU do not want to discuss agricultural protectionism in the WTO meeting in Cancun....  By spending something between $3B and $4B per year to finance cotton crops that will be worth less than this, the U.S. is creating a reality that unveils the contrast between the assistance President Bush promised to some of the world's poorest nations and the calamitous effects Washington's economic policy has on these same nations."


"Toward Cancun"


University of Sao Paulo Professor Marcos Sawaya opined in center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo (8/19): "The U.S.-EU joint proposal [re: agricultural trade] is conservative and completely empty in terms of goals in the three areas of negotiation, in addition to being full of traps that may thwart Brazil's ambitions of expanding exports.... The new scenario outlined in the joint document indicates that the 5th WTO ministerial meeting, in Cancun, will be much more difficult than we had thought. What is most worrisome is the fact that the U.S. has quickly abandoned the liberal intentions it showed in the beginning of the round, with USTR Robert Zoellick becoming hostage to protectionist interests currently prevailing in Washington." 


"What Is At Stake In Cancun"


Independent Jornal da Tarde economic columnist Celso Ming observed (8/18): "The U.S.-EU agreement on agricultural subsidies is sufficiently vague as to infuriate negotiators from the agricultural exporting nations, such as Brazil, but not frustrating enough to make them give up the Doha Round talks.... It is not possible to predict what kind of accord will be reached in Cancun, or even if there will be any accord. It is, however, possible to anticipate that if any concessions to emerging nations are made, they will not be free."      


"Fine People" 


Columnist Joao Marcio Mendonca observed in independent Jornal da Tarde (8/17): "Facing pressure from emerging nations (which had sympathy from the poor) to force the most highly developed nations to make real concessions in primary products trade, the Europeans and Americans have forgotten old differences and are getting together to stick to their basic agricultural policies and yield the least possible. To do so, they have put the blackmail machine in operation. The rich nations' tactic is to align with the poorest nations so as to isolate the 15 more competitive nations in the agricultural sector. In other words, they will open their markets to nations that do not threaten them and maintain restrictions on nations that can compete with them. Brazilians and its friends have only one way out: to play hardball. And now they have a precious trump card. The so-called Peace Clause, a mechanism created in the Uruguay Round to protect protectionist nations, will expire at the end of the year. If it is not extended, the fight will be terrible. The Europeans and Americans are aware of this and are already proposing to renew it for several years more."


MEXICO: "Large Black Storm Clouds On Cancun"


An editorial from left-of-center La Jornada judged (8/22). “On the eve of the Ministerial Meeting of the WTO to be held in dissatisfaction is increasing due to the anti democratic, excluding and clandestine procedures with which rules of global economic integration are made. Questions around the success of the meeting arise.… Lori Wallach and Mark Ritchie –leaders of American social organizations-- say that even when most of the WTO’s members are not satisfied with the results of the organization, with its procedures and with the way members make decisions, the discontent is not reflected in the meetings because of the control that a little group of rich countries has over the organization; they do not want to accept that the actual (economic) system has failed in developing countries. Cancun will only offer more of the same to countries like ours. Authoritarianism, exclusivism and not letting some poor nations participate in the decisions of the organization are reflected in the obsession of keeping the meeting away from careful examination and social protests.”


COLOMBIA:  "The Cancun's Challenge"


An op-ed by L.A. Times editorial council member, Salvadoran Sergio Munoz Bata charged in top national El Tiempo (8/31):  “It is unfair and immoral to go through the world preaching free trade as the U.S., the E.U. and Japan do, while at home they practice the wildest forms of agricultural protectionism.”




Federico Cuello, former Dominican Ambassador before the World Trade Organization said in left-of-center, independent morning Hoy (8/19):  "If one looks at the negotiations, it is clear that the U.S. is trying to keep agricultural incentives and that it is impossible for Dominican agriculture to survive under such conditions...those who belong to the negotiating team swear that they have no conflict of interest between their public functions and their businesses to ensure that they represent the national interest."


VENEZUELA:  "Will Free Trade Or Protectionism Prevail In Cancun?"


Carlos Ball commented in sensationalist 2001 (9/4): “By the beginning of the year, George W. Bush decidedly acted against Iraq, rejecting France and Germany’s arguments. But, is Bush also convinced of the advantages of the free international trade?...  We’ll see very soon, in the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization scheduled to begin on September 10 in Cancun.… Washington has a long record of creating enemies in Latin America.…  U.S. social democratic foreign policy towards Latin America has been a total disaster.  Nobody believes in the good intentions of the State Department that hypocritically hails free trade while imposing labor and environmental norms that destroy poor countries’ competitive advantages.… In Cancun, U.S. has the chance to defend the principles that guided the foundation of this nation to 'reach the blessings of freedom'...or it can stand idly by, again.”



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