Brazilian and Indian Doha Round Solidarity: Is it a reason for blame or a call for leadership?

A blame game seemed to start as soon as Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath walked out of the G4 talks with their counterparts from the US and the EU Thursday in Postdam, Germany. The meeting between these four key players in the World Trade Organization was formulated as an attempt to salvage global trade talks from a six year stalemate on the issues of farm subsidies and open markets. It turned into a fiasco and now charges over who or what caused the failure has become an open dispute, which is evoking interesting reactions from the media. Brazilian bloggers are trying to understand what’s going on… and they too are offering explanations.

In Washington on Thursday (21 June), the White House spokesman declared that President Bush was ‘disappointed’ with the collapse of the talks in Postdam. The US President blamed Brazil and India for the meeting’s failure. “The president is disappointed with some countries that are blocking an opportunity to expand global commerce”, remarked the White House spokesman, Tony Fratto. “Big economies as Brazil and India should not stand in the way of the progress of small nations, the poor developing countries — but that seems to be what happened in Germany this week”, Fratto said.
Lula culpa ricos por fracasso em Doha; Bush critica o Brasil
Mercosul e CPLP

No, Mr. Bush. That was not exactly what happened in the city of Postdam, in Germany, where the G4 met. In fact, the powerful nations seem to be opposed to the growth of the less affluent countries, but this kind of relationship is not what happens between Brazil, India and the poorer countries. This pattern exists between the US, the EU and the poorer countries. The core issue seems clear to me — the rich countries refuse to cut the agriculture subsidies to their farmers, and this situation can’t be seen as fair “commerce”. End. Brazil and India properly left the talks. The Europeans said that the emerging countries were not ready to make concessions, and I should ask: what more do they want? Meantime leaders are still thinking that social policies are to be restricted to national borders, we won’t have any development in the “better world” project. The attitude of the Lula Government in the case of the Bolivian refineries was, in my view, iconic. It would be indecent if the Brazilian president cared only for the national interests [of Brazil]. The well being of a Bolivian citizen is worth the same as mine or yours, dear reader. But this is not the line of thought of Europeans and Anglo-Americans. That is the reason why the Doha Round is dwindling. Just like Mercosur, Alca, etc.
Às favas com o comércio justoExpressão Literária

The collapse of the talks was nothing new, but some bloggers are closely following the local and regional media coverage, which is generally reverberating and amplifying the finger pointing. But some blogs and their commenters are presenting interesting fresh perspectives.

… important articles to understand the Doha deadlock and the reverberation in Brazil… “BUSH BLAMES BRAZIL” – Around here, the sites and portals followed the line presented by the White House, with calls and headlines like ‘Bush blames Brazil and India for the failure” or “According to Bush, Brazil and India are to blame for commercial barriers”. NO FINGER POINTING – “Wall Street Journal” and the “Financial Times” did not follow. The home page of the former, which questioned the “finger pointing”, was saying that “the talks collapsed when the most powerful four in the WTO could not settle old differences over agriculture subsidies”.
Os impasses de DohaLuiz Nassif Online

Nothing seems to cool down the motivation of the local press to throw out the image of the Brazilian government and of it’s illiterate president — even if it requires the use of unlimited malevolence and disdain for the facts. It doesn’t matter that the position held by Brazil and India is important for the interests of its people. What matters is to hammer the same old line: Lula’s government is incompetent, also in foreign matters. The facts? As Mino Carta says about the Brazilian press, “if the facts don’t adjust to our ideas, damn the facts!”
Doha, São João e ACMBlog do Galinho

“Brazil has done well. There was a clear unbalance in the conversation, disadvantageous to developing countries”, said Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Ruben Ramirez Lezcano to BBC Brazil… In Uruguay, President Tabare Vazquez’s advisers were not so enthusiastic, but supported Celso Amorim’s decision to abandon the talks in with the US and UE representatives, in Postdam, Germany. “It was better this way”, said the Uruguayan adviser.
Países do Mercosul apóiam decisão do Brasil na OMCRepública Vermelha

India and Brazil slam the door on rich countries during Trade Talks That’s how the issue was introduced in a report from the Sao Paulo’s correspondent to Clarin [newspaper] in Buenos Aires. The headlines were mentioning the firm attitude of both countries, and the pressure made by the German Angela Merkel and by the British Tony Blair who called Lula, explaining that in the Doha talks, “… now, the undeveloped countries of the South are the ones who do not accept what is offered because it is asked that they open their industrial and service markets in exchange for a little access to the subsided and protected rich North’s agro market.” Argentinian Secretary of Foreign Commercial Relations remarked, “It’s better a failure now than quick deals that are negative to us”. A specialist from Flacso (Latin American Social Sciences Faculty), Diana Tussiesaid, said, “… we have good world prices for the rural production and bottlenecks in the industry [sector]. Today Argentina has no urgency, and it would not take advantage of a more open market. And we have to worry about the future, with the eventual fall of the prices of commodities and a bigger supply of goods”.
Doha na visão da ArgentinaFelicio Rodrigues in Luis Nassif Online

An interesting piece of the plot
came in an interview given by Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim to ‘Valor Econômico’ right before the breakdown of the talks. He called the Brazilian journalists to his room as soon as he became aware of an orchestrated move by the EU and US representatives to blame Brazil and India for the collapse, and his account of what happened is bouncing around the blogosphere.

“First, they [US and UE] wanted to start the conversation over Nama – the industrial products. Mandelson, with that innocent style of his, said that they could start with Nama for a change. I had to stop that, and said that the core of the round is agriculture. We agreed to do something about Nama, but what would define the level of ambition for the goal of the round would be agriculture, and if we have to select an item, it is the amount of subsidies that is distorting commerce. Then he gave up, the trick didn’t work. In the end, the tactics were the same: they played that slow game of talking of peripheral issues, and when they arrived at Nama they saw that the concession level they wanted was not possible. They even talked about exchanging a 20 coefficient for an 18 equivalence, which means cutting 58% of the consolidated tariffs. That is obviously very far from what has been at any moment presented to them. Now I think that they [US and UE] tried something. They thought we wanted the round at any price, and that we would concede. They thought that we would abandon the Indians if necessary”. Min. Celso Amorim’s interview, published in ‘Valor Econômico’.
Amorim diz que EUA e UE “se acertaram antes”Projeto Brasil

Mike Johanns & Susan Schwab As it would be expected, English-language sources are also reporting the blame game over the talks collapse, and the interested readers will find diverse and insightful perspectives. I couldn’t help but select an interesting exchange post-comment that illustrates well what might be the main issue at stake — leadership. Lula, from his side, is emphasizing his oft-stated theory that the solution will never come out from the debate among the trade specialists and technocrats. Such pact can only come from an agreement between political leaders.

She (Susan Schwab, U.S. trade representative) told the Financial Times India had convinced Brazil to stick to a strategy that went directly against its own economic interests: ‘Brazil chose (developing country) solidarity over its economic interests,’ she said. Schwab indicated she felt that neither country had figured out how to provide leadership to the developing world, the newspaper said.
U.S. trade rep surprised by India, BrazilMonsters & Critics

Which evoked an interesting comment:

Its funny how some people use concepts like ‘leadership’ to suit their own needs. From what I can understand here, India and Brazil, the two of the largest democratic, developing countries have fended off the developed countries in spite of some economic loss to themselves. This implies a better strategic position for all developing countries. How can this be bad leadership? Only if you wish to lead the countries into selling their products cheap. From the perspective of those wishing well for the developing countries, India and Brazil have done a good job. Way to go! Susan Schwab, this is not corporate America. Don’t tell the developing countries to be a team player and take one for the team. We are talking about millions of people who can barely make enough to survive and not about buying a vacation house by the beach.’s comment on U.S. trade rep surprised by India, BrazilMonsters & Critics

In a 20 minute telephone call on Friday, 22, around 12:40, the British prime minister Tony Blair told president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that he was counting on Brazil to help save the Doha Round… Lula, however, insisted that the absence of balance between the demands and the offers of developed countries has brought failure to the talks in Postdam. During the conversation the Brazilian president managed to reinforce his old proposal of a meeting of world leaders where the political decisions needed for the conclusion of the [Doha] Round could be made. Lula’s reasoning with Blair was that the field for technical negotiations is exhausted, and at this moment, only the political will to offer concessions could make Doha Round’s final agreement possible. “The key now lies inside the political dialogs, and in the improvement of the offers from the richer economies”, summarized the spokesman.
Próximos dias serão decisivos para Doha, diz Blair a LulaCanal Finanças