"The director general (World Trade Organization chief Supachai Panitchpakdi) explained to ministers that he was very worried about the state of play. He made it very clear that time was running out," spokesman Keith Rockwell told reporters, adding the WTO chief had been "blunt and direct."These are fairly ominous words coming fom Supachai, the new WTO chief who took over from Michael Moore (not the funny one) last year. "Grave concerns" were expressed over the state of agriculture negotiations. As the Australian trade minister said, "It has been 18 months, we have missed every deadline so far and we are within 50 days of Cancun."
Are the WTO members going to pull another rabbit out of the hat as they did in December 1993? The General's suspicion is that the brinkmanship practiced today is much less likely to wind up in a sudden agreement out of the blue, not the least of which being because the Global South is much more strongly positioned today than ten years ago and the US is much more unilateralist than ten years ago. Countries such as Brazil, South Africa and India are far less likely today to simply roll over for the North, especially on intellectual property rights. Differences over agriculture between the US and EU were more or less papered over in 1993, with little stopping either from massive dumping activities or massive financial supports for overproduction. Agreeing to disagree while making it look like agreement is not going to be so easy this time. Finally, in 1993 the world was coming out of a mild recession. In 2003 the situation is much uglier. Surely we won't have a repeat of the 1930s, but as Marx said, history always repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.
Prepare for the farce of Cancun.