It’s hard to tell today whether the pessimism regarding the WTO talks which are supposed to conclude in Geneva tomorrowÂ is just standard last minute brinkmanship or a sign ofÂ serious trouble.Â But there is at least one strange aspect to the US position, which has been critical of China and India in the last few days.
There is “a delicate balance that we achieved on Friday night, and I’m very concerned” that the positions taken by China and India” will jeopardize the outcome of this round,” U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in Geneva yesterday. “There’s a real risk because those countries are advocating selectively reopening the package.”
India and China refuse to accept key elements of a compromise put forth by Lamy four days ago and refined by ministers over the weekend, according to the U.S. India never endorsed the proposal and China is now “backtracking” in its support, Schwab said.
China and India counter that a trade deal with “excessive” access for rich countries to their agricultural or industrial markets will impede their ongoing efforts at poverty reduction.Â Now, whatever the merits of that position, it’s precisely the position that these countries will also take in discussions about how to deal with climate change: why should they retard much-needed growth for the benefit of people in countries far richer than they are?Â
Yet George Bush has made the involvement of China and India a condition of any climate change deal, and has structured the White House’s non-UN “Major Economies” group around this condition.Â But if a deal can’t be done at the WTO talks because of conflicting poverty and growth priorities, why should one expect a climate change deal requiring China and India’s participation to do any better?Â Hopefully we’ll be spared the sight over the next few months of Bush professing himself to be shocked, shocked, that such a deal is proving difficult to accomplish.