White sheet of paper in Buenos Aires, the WTO is deep in the crisis

The argentine minister of foreign Affairs Jorge Faurie (left) with his counterparts of paraguay Eladio Loizaga (centre) and brazilian Aloysio Nunes Ferreira, on the occasion of a meeting of the Mercosur in Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 2017 (Photo by Nelson ALMEIDA. AFP)

The world trade Organization (WTO) is sinking a little more in the crisis: ministerial conference ends on Wednesday at Buenos Aires without significant agreement for the global trade.

In the margins of the WTO negotiations, discussions for a free trade treaty between the european Union and Mercosur have put forward and could lead early 2018.

“We are disappointed. Despite our efforts, the members have not managed to seal agreements significant” admitted Roberto Azevedo, the head of the organization that regulates world trade, the ministerial Conference took place from Sunday to Wednesday in the capital of argentina.

“Multilateralism does not mean having what you want, but what is possible. We have not had the flexibility we needed,” concluded the director-general of the WTO, in reference to the posture inflexible United States.

As is the trend for the past years, bilateral solutions take precedence over the multilateral agreements that are difficult to pull off, because the consensus culture prevails at the WTO.

According to the NGO Bloom, in India, for example, has to fail a fisheries agreement, which was seen as the only agreement of scale that can be reached at the 11th ministerial conference. A commitment has however been taken by the members of the WTO to move forward on this sensitive issue by 2019.

– “Discomfort” to the WTO –

“Buenos Aires has to ring the alarm clock of the conscience. The result is not satisfactory. There is a malaise of the institution. The status quo is no longer possible (…) Europe has a card to play, the EU must be a force of proposal,” said the French secretary of State responsible for external Trade, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

The Buenos Aires meeting was marked Monday by a new attack from Washington against the WTO.

“We are concerned, the WTO is losing its main objective and becomes an organization focused on litigation,” regretted the us Trade representative Robert Lighthizer. His country is going to paralyse the body for dispute resolution (DSB).

The EU and China were immediately mobilized to fly to the rescue of the WTO weakened.

“States have made observations that, the answers they provide, I think in the USA, can lead to a slow death of the institution”, has alerted the French minister.

The american representative has slammed the door of the negotiations and has left Argentina a day before the end of the work.

On Tuesday, the EU, Japan and the United States have united to launch a call to order to China, vilipendant its policy of granting subsidies, which causes a situation of unfair competition, and the requirement that transfers of technology to foreign companies wishing to set up there.

EU – optimistic –

Talks on a free trade agreement EU-Mercosur negotiations “have progressed”. “The account is not quite. There is still work to be done. The negotiation will continue in January,” explained Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

It is only a matter of weeks”, added the european commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmstrom.

The negotiations between the EU and Mercosur, the southern common Market (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay), began in the 1990s. The reluctance for the European focus on the opening of agricultural products in south america, and ethanol.

The south american countries feared that their industry could not compete with european manufactured goods.

According to the head of the French delegation to the conference of the WTO, “there has been some progress, but there is still progress to be made on the application of sanitary”.

The Argentines dreamed of a agreement in Buenos Aires this week, but Brussels has not given up.

“There are member States take precedence over the substance on the schedule. It is better to take the time to sign a good agreement, rather than ending up with difficulties of ratification”, said Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

According to Isolda Agazzi, Alliance Sud, a group of swiss NGOS, the conference “has ignored the issues of importance to developing countries, the subjects of the Doha round on agriculture and fishing, or on the public storage for food security”.

The Doha development agenda, the sea serpent from the WTO, aims to reduce the customs barriers, with particular benefits for developing countries.

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