Indonesia’s Mari Pangestu, a candidate to lead the World Trade Organisation, is keen for a multilateral deal on agriculture
The World Trade Organisation’s Doha round of trade talks can help to prevent a recurrence of severe food crises, Mari Pangestu of Indonesia, a leading candidate for the post of WTO director general (pdf), said in an interview in London last week.
“The urgency has reduced” since the dramatic spike in food prices that hit developing countries in 2007 and 2008, says Pangestu, Indonesia’s trade minister from 2004 to 2011, “but that doesn’t mean you have addressed the fundamental distortions” that created the crisis.
Agriculture is one of the pillars of the Doha round, the WTO’s wide-ranging free-trade negotiations that have been progressing in fits and starts since 2001. The agriculture talks, which aim to impose controls on sensitive topics such as farm subsidies and export restrictions, have proven to be one of the most controversial aspects of the negotiations. Disagreements over agriculture led to the collapse of a high-level effort to conclude the Doha round in Geneva in 2008.
But concluding the agriculture talks is critical to preventing future spikes in food prices, says Pangestu, who remembers waiting in line with her mother to pick up food rations during Indonesia’s economic crisis in the 1960s.
Western farm subsidies have artificially depressed world food prices, triggering a decline in production and a fall in global food stocks, Pangestu says. Meanwhile, developing countries’ panic-driven restrictions on food exports have exacerbated incipient food crises. New disciplines on both issues need to be negotiated at global level, she says.
“You cannot get that kind of agreement bilaterally; you can only get it multilaterally … That’s why I still feel Doha is so important,” Pangestu says, adding that the agriculture talks have “always been one of the most positive aspects of Doha”.
But whether negotiators at the WTO will be able to agree on anything – agriculture or otherwise – remains an open question. The round is already more than 11 years old, and there is still no end in sight to the negotiations. Trade delegates are working to finalise a handful of issues, including some provisions on agriculture, in time for a high-level meeting in Bali at the end of this year.
An “early harvest” deal on those select topics may or may not come to fruition. Either way, the future of the remaining Doha round issues, which include services, intellectual property rights and industrial goods, remains uncertain. Crafting an outlook for the round and figuring out how to keep the WTO relevant will be among the many challenges facing the organisation’s next leader.
Pangestu, who is Indonesia’s tourism minister, is one of nine candidates vying to replace Pascal Lamy of France, who has served as director general since September 2005. Lamy will step down at the end of August.
On Tuesday, the chair of the WTO’s general council announced new guidelines (pdf) for the selection process, which is due to conclude before the end of May.
The candidates – only one of whom, Tim Groser of New Zealand, hails from the west – have been campaigning informally since the beginning of this year. The others are Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, Ghana’s Alan Kyerematen, Costa Rica’s Anabel González, Mexico’s Herminio Blanco, Brazil’s Roberto Azevêdo, South Korea’s Taeho Bark and Jordan’s Ahmad Hindawi.
Rather than hold an outright vote, WTO delegates choose their leader over several months, gradually whittling down the number of candidates before settling on a final choice. The aim is to make the decision by consensus – a delicate task in an organisation with 159 members.
After the first round of consultations, which begins on 2 April, the field of nine candidates will be narrowed to five. A second round will eliminate three further candidates, leaving two to vie for the top spot in the final round in May.
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Farmhouse fashioned by hand or factory made, today’s maturer tasting cheddar is breaking sales records
“They do take a lot of convincing,” admitted Marie Quatrehomme, an award-winning Parisian cheesemonger, “but once they do, they’re very happy with it.”‘ The problem, she said from her illustrious Left Bank cheese shop, Quatrehomme, is that “cheddar is well-liked by the French once they try it, but at the same time it’s very little known.”
Slowly, though, the French palate – spoiled after being weaned on the ripest brie and most sumptuous camembert – is coming round to the idea of British cheddar. “Its appeal in France lies in its wonderful shape and texture and in the fact that it is very close in appearance to the French cheese cantal and yet has a totally different taste,” says Quatrehomme. “We stock cheddar all year, but I’ve just taken a large order for Christmas and I’m really proud to offer my customers two of the best varieties.”
But the rise of cheddar is arguably best exemplified by the success of Cathedral City, made by Dairy Crest and
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Survey finds that orders fell in past three months for majority of firms, with those exposed to European markets hardest hit
UK manufacturers face weakening orders and output as the eurozone crisis continues to buffet Britain’s industrial base.
A survey from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and BDO, published on Monday, found that the majority of firms saw export orders fall in the past three months. Firms exposed to European markets were particularly hard hit.
The report also found employers are more reluctant to hire new workers than in the summer, as gloom over economic prospects for 2012 and 2013 has grown.
Tom Lawton, head of manufacturing at BDO, said the data painted a “depressing picture” of the sector.
“The reduction in exports is a particular concern and, while this mostly reflects the turmoil in the eurozone, it also highlights the scale of the challenge in growing exports to emerging markets to offset the downturn in much of Europe,” Lawton said.
“The sector is nowhere near where the government wanted it to be two years ago and emphasises the need for a long-term industrial policy focused on manufacturing.”
Separately, the latest Hometrack survey of Britain’s housing market showed activity dropped last month, with the number of new buyers registering with agents falling by 0.8%. The survey also reported that prices in London reduced by 0.2% in November, the first month-on-month fall since December 2011.
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European leaders hailing a Greek export miracle base their case on a statistical correction rather than hard data
It seems too ridiculous to be true but here at the margins of the EU Summit, European leaders are actually claiming that their strategy is working: never mind the fact that the European economy is back in recession and that unemployment is skyrocketing, the recovery of export dynamics in some member states is seen as a measure of great success by our ‘very serious leaders’.
In particular, much is being made of the fact that exports statistics from Greece indicate a substantial increase since 2009. This is supposed to demonstrate the benefits of the ‘internal devaluation’ policy imposed by the Troika with wages and unit wage costs collapsing. It’s therefore interesting to examine Greece export figures in greater detail.
First, when looking at the volume of goods exports and basing ourselves on the AMECO database, there’s hardly any sign of this famously strong recovery of Greek exports. In 2008, Greece was exporting some 22 billion worth of goods (in prices of 2005). The volume of goods exports collapsed to 19 billion in the 2009 financial crisis and has recovered slowly to 21 billion in 2012. No export miracle here.
Something does seem to be happening when switching the focus to goods exports in current prices. These increased from 22 billion before the outbreak of the crisis to 26, 5 billion in 2012, representing an expansion of 20%.
To examine what is behind this surge in the statistics, the figure below shows the product composition of exports from Greece from 1999 to countries outside the EU-27. (We also produced a figure on Greek exports to the EU 27 but all the curbs were flat).
This chart indicates that one product group above all was responsible for this increase in goods exports, namely the group ‘mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials”, which made a sudden leap to 6 times its previous level, increasing by €5 billion, an amount corresponding to the overall increase of goods exports from Greece (see paragraph above).
This is a bizarre finding, for two reasons. What is striking about this particular group is that it mainly contains products that are highly capital – and material – intensive (coal, petroleum, gas, electric current). Labour cost cuts are therefore the least likely explanation for this sudden surge in exports. Moreover, the surge in exports of this product group from Greece is limited to the rest of the world. There is no increase in these exports to European markets.
An explanation for this riddle can be found in a note from the Greek statistical office, the Hellenic Statistical Authority, Press release, ‘Commercial transactions of Greece (Estimations): August 2012′, October 10th. The note says the following: “Data on trade in petroleum products are not included due to a revision under way of the respective time series. The revision aims to incorporate revised primary data that have been recently provided by the Customs Authority”.
In other words, what may very well be responsible for much or this entire surge in Greek exports are “revised primary data”, i.e. simply a difference in counting.
To conclude, if the wage austerians are now basing their case on statistical corrections instead of on hard data, they must be getting pretty desperate.
Pfizer (PFE) and Merck (MRK) have recently set up joint ventures to access the mainland market’s generic drug sector, but with slightly different agendas. Pfizer has aligned with China’s Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical, with the intent to capitalize on its global purchasing network to improve the export quality of generic drugs produced in China. Merck, on the other hand, has aligned itself with China’s Simcere Pharmaceutical Group, and is focusing on lowering overall drug costs and deeper penetration of the Chinese market. Post your comment!
See more here: Pfizer (PFE) and Merck (MRK) have recently set up joint ventures to access the mainland market’s generic drug sector, but with slightly different agendas. Pfizer has aligned with China’s Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical, with the intent to capitalize on…