On its face, the goal of those talks in Geneva, Switzerland, seems impossible. There are 147 members in the WTO and any agreement on the complex and nuance-filled negotiations MUST be unanimous. The talks gained momentum at midweek when the U.S. and four other major players in the farm trade arena reached a consensus on a framework for global trade. But many developing nations are unhappy with the negotiations ... and as the self-imposed Friday deadline neared, it became clear that talks would slip into the weekend.
Adjusting farm trade policy has proven the toughest obstacle in completing the framework. While WTO members agree in principle that cutting trade barriers is good for the world economy, many fear uncontrolled trade liberalization will have a devastating impact on individual countries. So some diplomats are fighting hard to protect national interests.
Various trade blocs, including the G10 and the G20, were at the forefront of the opposition this week. They worry the framework being championed by wealthier nations will bring a torrent of imports that will drown their developing farm economies. But even as those countries are pushing for concessions, wealthier nations themselves are somewhat at odds.
The European Union, for example, has expressed concern that its farmers would have to give up more government support than their U.S. rivals. The E.U. has agreed to eliminate all export subsidies on farm products and to make big cuts to other subsidies, but only if other rich nations, like the U.S., follow suit.