Hectic parleys

The G-20 bloc of nations faces new challenges

By Clifford Polycarp
Published: Sunday 07 June 2015

Hectic parleys

-- Amorim has visited India thrice. Brazil, India and South Africa also formed the ibsa Forum earlier this year to cooperate on trade, development, energy and political issues. This partnership also aims to secure permanent seats for all three in the un Security Council.

When negotiations were relaunched earlier this year, the g20 retained its edge, playing a critical role in burying the tariff reduction approach proposed by the eu and the us. But now, it faces new challenges.
New equations eu-us apart, the g20 is being forced to take on the concerns of other developing country groups such as the g33 and the g90 (see table: Key demands). The g20 and the g33 appear to be working well together: the latter's leader, Indonesia, and key member-countries such as Nigeria and Philippines are also part of the g20. India is part of the g33 as well; it stands to gain if both groups achieve their goals. The g20's equation with the g90, however, is not so balanced, thanks to an eu ploy. In May, Lamy issued a letter to all members proposing that the g90 be asked to make no reductions in agriculture tariffs. This clearly pitted larger developing countries against g90 medium-sized ones, also enabling the eu to deflect attention from its subsidies (the real problem).

Other groups influencing the agriculture negotiations include g10 and the Cairns Group. The former doesn't want a drastic cut in the peak tariff rates it maintains on certain sensitive products. Most developing country members in the Cairns Group are either a part of the g20 or the g33. Those in the g33 are mainly Central American countries, apprehensive about a fallout with the us if they were to align with the g20. The three developed country members of the Cairns group include Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Traditionally, the Carins Group has been most vociferous about aggressive cuts in both tariffs and subsidies. The only difference between this group and the g20, according to a Brazilian negotiator, is the definition of special and differential treatment to be accorded to developing countries, especially on tariff reductions. The g20 clearly wants a significant reduction in peak tariff rates, putting it in conflict with the g10.

Most of the substantive negotiations on agriculture are now taking place through the eu and four countries -- the us, Australia, Brazil and India -- which came together at the sidelines of a un Conference on Trade and Development at Sao Paulo, Brazil, in June. Their aim is to come up with a framework agreement before the end of July. But, with the g90 having its own concerns, it is now feared that the July deadline will be missed.

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