PART 8: CONCLUDING COMMENTS
291. We believe that there are lessons for the
EU to learn from the collapse of last year's Ministerial Conference
in Seattle, and that it should be seen to be learning them. The
EU would be ill-advised to go into the next stages of negotiations
without a full review of the mandate by the Council of Ministers:
that would be seen by other members of the WTO as a very Bourbon
thing to do. We understand that the EU will not want to disclose
the whole of its negotiating hand in advance, but it should nonetheless
be possible to formulate the mandate in a way which demonstrates
the EU's readiness to participate in a constructive process of
the kind we have in mind.
292. We envisage that this may involve the EU
in being prepared, as the negotiating process goes forward, to
narrow the range of issues to be addressed in the Round. We think
that at the end of the day the EU should be going for a Round
which concentrates on the issues where progress is most likely
to be achievable, rather than looking for trade-offs on the broadest
possible canvas. This would be greatly facilitated by the EU making
sensible changes to the Common Agricultural Policy of its own
accord, and in advance of the next Round, rather than keeping
them as bargaining counters.
293. We believe that the EU should give very careful
consideration to its position on the timing of the next Ministerial
Conference (whose aim will be to agree on an agenda for a Round).
This should not take place until preliminary discussions among
all the participants (including developing countries as well as
the major trading nations) have identified the list of issues
where progress may be possible, and have reduced the number and
range of decisions to be taken at ministerial level in the bright
lights of the Conference. This will be a long, painstaking exercise.
We therefore deplore the agreement reached by the EU and the US
to try to launch a new Round during the course of this year. It
is much more important to get it right than to get it soon.
294. We believe that the EU should recognise the
danger that the WTO, and in particular its dispute settlement
procedure, will become overloaded with issues which would be better
dealt with in other fora. We can see the difficulty of endorsing
conflicting worthy objectives with no means of determining a hierarchy
among them. We therefore welcome the emphasis in the EU mandate
on the need for policy coherence, to be achieved through co-operation
between all the relevant organisations forming part of the system
of international governance.
295. We note that the WTO is an organisation under
strain, and will become more so as its membership increases. Seattle
was damaging to its credibility, and to the confidence in it of
many both inside and outside the organisation. Another failure
would be a serious setback which could damage its usefulness,
perhaps even lead to its demise. If we believe in the global benefits
of free trade on the basis of a rules-based system so as to ensure
as far as possible that it is fair, that it really does benefit
all members, and that it is not exploited to the disadvantage
of the poorer countries who most need markets for their exports,
then we need the WTO. The organisation simply cannot afford another
spectacular failure, soto quote Commissioner Lamy"when
it comes to the next Ministerial, whenever it is, a Round has
to be a sure-fire bet".
Recommendation to the House
296. The Committee considers that the EU mandate
for World Trade Organisation negotiations following the Ministerial
Conference in Seattle raises important questions to which the
attention of the House should be drawn. It therefore makes this
Report to the House for debate.