Saturday, April 30, 2011

Playing Ball and Doha

“On Saturday, April 23rd, Ambassador Ron Kirk helped the Texas Rangers honor the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut in Major League Baseball. Ambassador Kirk threw the ceremonial first pitch of the game. In front of thousands of fans, he pitched the ball across home plate to First Base Coach Gary Pettis. The Ambassador also partic...ipated in the pre-game warm up.”


         Both the US Trade Representative’s office and Washington Trade Daily seem to be kicking up some dust in Geneva – with USTR Kirk’s recent proclamation that the decade-old Doha trade round is “dead” at least for the rest of the year and the explosion of emotion by some WTO Secretariat staff against the way WTD is reporting what is going on there.
       The United States – which Australia Ambassador Kim Beazley says holds the key to success or failure of the development trade round – is now saying that there is still hope for completing the round, but for now will enter a “moment of sobriety.” The USTR – along with his deputy in Geneva Michael Punke as recently as today – said again that developing countries must open their markets far more than they already have and above what was “agreed” in the December 2008 negotiating formulas in goods, services and agriculture before the United States will play ball.
         In the meantime, Washington has been tight-mouthed about what it will give in return for that additional access. Some officials suggest that since the United States is so wide-open, it does not have to offer anything . US officials are silent on high tariffs on textiles and apparel, “de facto” sugar and peanut quotas, domestic supports to its cotton producers and manufacturers, a business visa system which essentially limits job-creating foreign investments in this country and carry-on export sales, domestic shipping requirements, Buy America requirements, an array of restraints on services businesses and foreign investment, mostly which reside in the powers of the various states and too-tight sanitary and phytosanitary rules governing food imports. There are certainly many more.
        For WTD’s part, we have again been roundly criticized in Geneva and Washington for spreading rumors and making up stories – not only half-truths, but full fabrications – about the negotiating round. Should Doha fail, it would not be surprising to us, at least, to hear from the WTO Secretariat that the blame falls entirely on the three-person staff of WTD who run the business out of a spare bedroom in Wheaton, Maryland .
        Mr. Lamy’s office has even threatened to pull our United Nations press credentials.
Professionals in Geneva, apparently believe that what is discussed behind closed doors should not be reported. So much for freedom of the press -- which apparently is unimportant to the 19th century stiff-collar bureaucrats in Geneva.
         But more than one senior trade envoy in Geneva has complemented the work of WTD, with one just this week asking rhetorically how else will delegations there know what’s going on.
Apparently, those that claim they run the WTO act as if its membership still numbers only a score of like-minded, rich nations -- instead of the 153, of which the vast majority are still striving for sustained economic growth and for which trade is a crucial aspect of that development.
          So as the most credibility crisis flames again in Geneva – sparked by the most recent screeching by the United States – the USTR office is touting the great USTR Kirk’s appearance in Dallas to throw out the first ball at the season opener of the Texas Rangers.

Any comments?
Jim Berger

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