Doha Trade Round In China’s Hands

The choice for Beijing is this: scupper the Doha round of world trade talks on behalf of the poorer countries who feel they are being asked to bear the brunt of the lowering of trade barriers necessary to strike a deal, but incur the wrath of the Americans and Europeans for doing so; or help patch up a deal, however imperfect, and play the good world citizen as behooves a leading trade power.

The make or break Geneva summit of trade negotiators is now in its second week and near collapse thanks to an eleventh-hour finger-pointing row between the U.S. and India and China.

China came off the sidelines of the talks for the first time on Monday and knocked the wind out of a compromise proposal put forward at the end of last week by the World Trade Organisation’s director general Pascal Lamy  under which developed nations would make cuts to their agricultural subsidies in return for more access to developing countries’ industrial and, potentially, services sectors. That was broadly the original development goals of the round which started, it seems, back when the earth was still cooling.

But, according to Xinhua, Zhang Xiangchen, an official at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, says China’s position is that “trade-distorting subsidies are illegal while tariffs are legal measures of protection.” In particular, China wants to protect its sugar, cotton and rice sectors with higher tariffs.

More the language of deal breakers than makers.

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