The Fifth Ministerial WTO Conference, held in Cancun, Mexico, September 10-14, came to an abrupt impasse after the so-called G-21 nations, a group of 21 developing countries, voiced opposition to proceedings. Some of their opposition was attributable to the U.S. and the E.U. refusing to substantially lower domestic farm subsidies, particularly on cotton. In a joint USDA and USTR statement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoelick and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman added, “The final break came over the Singapore issues: trade facilitation, transparency in government procurement, competition and investment.”
In deploring the breakdown of talks, the U.S. warned that this will give incentive to the U.S. to pursue bilateral and regional agreements. Questions about the future of the WTO were widely voiced. It is now a certainty that a major new trade liberalization agreement will not be reached by the end of next year as had been hoped and that it won’t be back to the drawing boards seriously until after the U.S. elections in 2004. Pity.