WTO concludes meeting in HK without much progress

Other trade bloggers have yet to post about the deal struck in Hong Kong, so I’ll quickly note the highlights of what I learned from two articles in The Standard.

(1) France won in regards to the export subsidies abolition deadline. Countries have until 2013, whereas Brazil and India preferred an earlier deadline of 2010.

(2) Services won’t be liberalized significantly.

(3) The G90 group (African Union + LDCs + ACP) appears to have secured preferential access to the markets of WTO members, although the US and Japan won exemptions for “sensitive” products like rice and textiles.

(4) Benin’s hardline stance on cotton appears to have yielded a few dividends. Although the agreement doesn’t end domestic subsidies for cotton, all export subsidies and tariffs and quota systems against cotton imports from developing countries will be terminated by 2006.

Over all, most folks seem happy with the deal only because it means that trade delegates avoided walking away from Hong Kong empty-handed. Rob Portman, USTR, says there’s “a lot more work to do in agriculture and market access.” The G20 called the deal “modest but not insignificant,” while the EU begrudgingly labeled the compromise “acceptable.”

No one approached the negotiating table at the start of the week expecting a breakthrough, so it’s little surprise that the struggle will continue in 2006.