Globalising anger

Cancun joins Seattle as the venue of two failed ministerials of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since it came into existence on the first day of 1995. The WTO, whose stoic exterior is designed to block the views and positions offered by civil society organisations, was venue of an abject collapse instigated by its own members from the South. Determined to stand up against the unilateral outcomes of multilateral forums, member states from the developing world refused to accept the draft declaration. The so-called 'Quad' of international trade–the US, the EU, Japan and Canada–were taken aback by the vehemence of the Southern resistance as they realised that this time around they could not muscle their way through and engineer declarations to suit their convenience.  The failure of the Cancun Ministerial, however, may generate a backlash and strengthen the Quad's determination to engage in more ruthless manipulations to get their way.

Developing countries have learnt the dictum of international trade the hard way, for having being the victims of hard-headed lobbying, coercion and deft manipulations. Having learnt the lesson, they gave an exemplary demonstration of their will not to be brow-beaten into global agreements that work to their disadvantage. Their anger and 'insubordination' has already caused the biggest derailment so far of the market-led development agenda. And rightly so. Developed country agriculture has so far enjoyed a unique 'special and differential' treatment that was in reality meant for the developing and least developed countries. The impregnable wall that was being built since the days of the Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-94), is not so easy to scale.

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Himal Southasian