Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Bad Dinner and Bad Weather in Big Sky, Montana

Have you ever gone over to someone house for dinner – and the dinner was horrible? Discretion dictates that one does not say anything to the guest about how awful it was, but usually the conversation on the way home turns to just that.

Well – the dozen ministers gathered at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministerial meeting in Big Sky, Montana, last week were polite and temperate during the last three days of the get-together as the United States spelled out what it saw as the dismal state of affairs in Geneva. Aside from the United States and China – who were at opposite poles on how the moribund Doha Development Agenda negotiations should proceed – no one else spoke up. Several ministers grimaced when asked by WTD what they thought of the US Doha description. One prominent South Pacific minister told a couple of reporters – who he happened to meet in a bar at the Big Sky Mountain Resort – that he had made a “political decision” to keep his opinion to himself. Then he started to fume.

But in Washington earlier in the week, three of those ministers were more lively. Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson and New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser bemoaned the situation with Doha – but recognized the dismal reality as outlined US Trade Representative Ron Kirk in Montana. None pointed figures – here or there – at least publically.

Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu echoed what a senior Chinese trade official stated in the concluding press conference at Big Sky on Friday – that Beijing intends to support and pursue an “aggressive, comprehensive and balanced” final agreement that fully takes into account the needs of developing countries.

All three ministers participated in an informal session on Monday about APEC and Doha sponsored by the East-West Center and the US Asia-Pacific Council.
Ministers are in Paris this week to see if some type of “plan B” – less than comprehensive – solution can be had.

It was cold and rainy in Big Sky during the final two days of the ministers – when ministers actually attended. Tomorrow’s forecast for Paris is windy and partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees F. It’s going to rain Friday.

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