Encouraging Sounds From Geneva

WTO Director-General Lamy is coming closer to a decision on whether or not there will be a WTO Ministerial meeting before Christmas.  According to several reports he should be in a position by the end of next week to call a meeting of Ministers together.  Lamy will not be wanting to risk another failure like that in July.  This means that the ongoing discussions at officials’ level will need to have shown good progress before Lamy will call a Ministerial meeting together.  There have been several failed Ministerial meetings in this WTO Round.  My view on this is that the failures are entirely predictable.  The ground has not been sufficiently prepared for these meetings and too muich has been asked of Ministers.  Full agreement doesn’t need to be achieved before Ministers convene but the number of issues unresolved can’t be too numerous.  In Hong Kong, for example, there were over a hundred unresolved issues on agriculture alone.

This report from the IHT suggests to me that Lamy sees things pretty much like I do:

World Trade Organisation (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy said on Saturday he was increasingly inclined to call ministers to Geneva next month to pursue a global trade treaty that could mitigate the world’s economic turmoil.

U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders have been pushing for a breakthrough this year in the global free trade talks, known as the Doha round, as a way to bolster the troubled world economy.

Lamy said it would be risky to convene a ministerial meeting unless the WTO’s 153 member governments are ready to make the compromises needed to finally clinch agreement in the delicate negotiations.

“Convening a meeting that will fail is a risk. Not convening a meeting, waiting for some time … is also taking a risk,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a United Nations aid summit.

“I have not yet made a determination but the answer should be reasonably clear by the end of next week,” Lamy added.

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