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October 7, 2003

The WTO Cancum meeting failed. We know that it to do with the Singapore issues - investment, competition policy, government procurement and trade facilitation.

And we know that the Cairns group of agricultural free traders, of which Australia is a member, were deeply disappointed. Hence the stock take about the future of the corporate-style global trading system.

There is a big doubt hanging over this system because of the double talk. The US claims to support the Cairns group agenda of liberalization of agricultural trade; but it is more concerned to get Europe and Japan to reduce their level of domestic support for their farmers; ensuring that developing countries open their markets up to US exports by removing tariffs and quotas; dragging its heels on controlling the dumping of subsidized exports in developing countries markets; and stonewalling on fair terms of trade for developing countries' exports.

Somehow developing countries opening their markets to dumped produce from the US and Europe is intrinsically good for developing countries---according to the neoliberal catechism. And there is the blatant hypocrisy: protection is deemed OK for the US, Japan and the EU whilst market openness is deemed good for developing countries.

The free trader's dream of an effective multilateral free trade system is now being replaced by a series of bilateral free trade agreements: Australia with the US; Brazil with the US; Japan with Singapore etc.

Why this path for Australia? Why not a regional trading system with East Asian economies? An open regionalism in the Asian-Pacific region? Or is that trade policy favoured by Ross Garnaut amongst others now history after the Asian financial crisis?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:43 AM | | Comments (0)