Erol Çakmak Yet another endeavor to turn the World Trade Center Doha Development Tour that started seven years ago into a fruitful event has resulted in failure.
About 40 trade ministers returned home at the end of July with no positive results from a 10-day meeting where representatives of various groups engaged in heated debate. The dispute was seemingly on the private protection mechanism in agriculture, but its reasons go beyond those visible on the surface.
The Uruguay Tour, during which the first agreement enabling free trade of agricultural products was created, lasted for 11 years. Its main goals were not reached, but at least, it served as a general framework for further possible steps.
The Uruguay Tour set the stage for extra efforts to make reconciliation between the European Union and the United States possible. In the new negotiation period, the EU is relatively more comfortable than the United States. Although it continues to provide a high level of domestic subsidies, it has changed the method of payment and decreased its price-spoiling effects. Also, it has undertaken remarkable reforms in the sugar market, a source of problems in export subsidies. More sacrifices in customs taxes depend on the level of free trade in nonagricultural products.
The United States, on the other hand, has been in a difficult position in many ways. It will not be easy for the new president to set realistic positions until he gets used to his throne. Although it took part in July meetings with its proposal of ceiling prices, a proposal whose restrictive effect on domestic subsidies is questionable, it was not convincing. It seems impossible that an agriculture law vetoed by the president has implications to decrease subsidies, especially in a case where prices are falling worldwide.
When compared with former examples, a major outcome of the Doha Tour was that developing countries such as Brazil, India and China realized their bargaining power. This is good as long as it makes the competition a fairer one. But has also led to unnecessary tit-for-tats, make existing disputes even more difficult to solve.
Where Turkey takes part
Turkey is a member of the G-33 group described as �special products supporters.� This 45-member group includes some African and Caribbean countries as well as countries such as India, Pakistan and China. Some countries might change their group in line with the bargaining topic. Turkey is stable on agriculture. It diverges from the group's top members in terms of steps taken in free trade of nonagricultural products. Turkey shows how intolerant it is of reductions in promises in agriculture and expresses it through mediating within the G-33 group.
Special products and special precautions within the new agreement framework might easily pave the way for a protective mechanism that decision makers apparently want to have. Nevertheless, Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, would better benefit from an ongoing stable atmosphere at the macrolevel and should give priority to take precautions that would pave the way for development of an agriculture and food sector and that increases competitive power rather than taking temporary precautions.