Tag Archives: Pascal Lamy

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Not surprisingly, coverage of the campaign for the U.S. Presidency continued to dominate the headlines this week.  Obama has taken a commanding lead in many polls, and McCain is embracing his role as underdog.  This morning, Colin Powell endorsed Obama suggesting that the race may quickly be spiraling out of McCain’s reach.

In other news:

1. President Bush on Sunday announced his intention to call a global financial summit.   The move appears to be an attempt to undermine efforts by the European Union, led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to reconsider the foundation of the global economic order.  Meanwhile, Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization was warned against a rise in protectionism by governments who seek to blame other countries for their financial crises.  “This is exactly what happened in the 1930s when [protectionism] was the virus that spread the crisis all over the place…This is a risk,” he cautioned.

2. New economic figures out of China this week illustrate that no country is immune from the current global crisis.  Figures due out on Monday will provide some insight in to current developments in the Chinese economy.  But economists are bracing for a continued economic slowdown in China.  Already, the Chinese government has introduced an economic stimulus package intended to boost the economy. 

3. A status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraq has been negotiated, but the agreement now faces the difficult task of garnering support from the Iraqi parliament.  The draft agreement, which was circulated on Friday, would extend the U.S. commitment to Iraq to 2012.  The agreement faces numerous obstacles, including the question of jurisdiction over American soldiers who commit crimes while in Iraq.  The agreement, which faces stiff opposition in the Iraqi Parliament, must be passed by the Iraqi parliament by the end of the year, when the United Nations mandate for the U.S. operation ends.

4. The South African political fissure continues to grow.  The ruling African National Congress ousted its sitting president, Thabo Mbeki, several weeks ago.  In more recent developments, Mbhazima Shilowa, an influential figure within the party and close ally of Mbeki, quit the party and has hinted that he will found a new party to challenge the ANC in upcoming elections.  The fissure threats to deprive the African National Congress of the two-thirds majority it has held in the parliament since the establishment of multiracial democracy in 1994.  If that happens, it would force the ANC to compromise with rival parties to effect constitutional change in the country.

5. The sharp decline in global oil prices over the last two months has led to economic problems for countries once flush with cash.  Oil has slipped under $80 per barrel on global markets.  Over the summer, oil was trading near $150 per barrel.  The decline has created problems–such as declines in government revenue and export earnings–for major oil exporters, including Russia, Mexico, and Nigeria, and the oil exporting Gulf States.

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The Death of Doha…Finally?

The Doha Round of international trade talks collapsed (again) today.  It seems that the World Trade Organizations Director-General, Pascal Lamy, was a bit too ambitious in hoping that the countries would be able to hammer out a deal.  The Doha Round was supposed to be the “development round” of WTO talks.  Ironic, therefore, that the US is blaming the developing countries, especially India and China, for the collapse of negotiations.

So what really happened?  It seems that countries could not agree on new rules to cover agriculture.  It’s the same thing that’s held up the WTO for years. The United States and Europe refuse to cut agricultural subsidies to their farmers, India and China refuse to cut market protections for their farmers, and so on.  The influence of the domestic farm lobby in many countries is astounding.  Even after the US and Europe announced plans to trim subsidies (largely through a shell game which would mean few real cuts and leave open the possibility of subsidies doubling from current rates, as Alan Beattie notes) China accused US negotiators of hypocrisy in their demands to open markets in the developing world while protecting American cotton farmers through subsidies.  And India’s trade minister, Kamal Nath, accused the US of “self-righteousness”.  Not exactly the stuff of friendly trade talks.

So what remains?  Lamy is hopeful the talks may resume in the fall, but this seems unlikely given political developments in the United States and India and his upcoming reappointment to the WTO’s directorate.  More likely, I think, is an increase in bilateral and regional agreements like NAFTA.  Globalization lite, so to speak.