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Failure of the WTO negotiations in Geneva We have respected our mandate (Mandelson)

London, United Kingdom, September 9, 2004 Nominee Commissioner Peter Mandelson Jan van de VEl©EC-CE
London, United Kingdom, September 9, 2004
Nominee Commissioner Peter Mandelson
Jan van de VEl©EC-EC

(B2 archives) Peter Mandelson (*), European Commissioner for Trade, defends himself as a “handsome devil” for having failed to fulfill the mandate given by the Member States during the latest negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), this summer in Geneva. After this failure, he does not see negotiations resuming immediately.

  • How do you feel after the failure of the WTO negotiations in Geneva?

This is a setback for Europe. For three reasons. First, we had the opportunity to obtain international protection for our agricultural reform; we had the chance to preserve the future development of the common agricultural policy. Secondly, this agreement offered new opportunities for European exporters to gain new markets. This is important because Europe is one of the biggest exporters in the world. Third, we had the chance to achieve equality with the United States in agriculture by forcing it to reduce and eliminate its higher tariffs. We lost those opportunities.

  • Have you been accused – the French government in particular – of going it alone, of not taking into account the opinions of member states? What do you answer?

The European Commission is responsible for the negotiation. Quite simply because (international) Trade is a common policy, set by the European Treaties. It is a responsibility which the Member States have intended to delegate to the Community level. As for each negotiation, we receive a mandate, discussed and decided collectively by the 27 Ministers. France took part in this decision, in two ways, as a State and as the presidency of the European Union.

During the negotiation, we have a certain freedom to use the tactics which seem best to us to achieve the goal which is fixed for us. By respecting two obligations: maintaining our independence of judgment – ​​the interests of all Member States must be preserved – and preserving transparency – we must keep each State informed. We have, I believe, fulfilled the mandate and those obligations. Anyway, I haven't received any complaints. All Member States were kept informed as the negotiations progressed; the French minister, in particular, as the presidency.

  • And now ? Is the failure irremediable? Do you think that the negotiation can resume quickly? What role can Europe play?

The future is rather uncertain. This negotiation failed above all because there was a deep disagreement between the United States, on the one hand, which insisted on having access to the markets (of emerging countries), and India and China, on the other, who defended the right to protection of the agricultural and non-commercial sectors. Europe has no real responsibility for this setback. (…) Now we can play what is called the role of a “ honest intermediary to foster a new compromise. But honestly, I don't really see a new negotiation restarting anytime soon, even this year. I don't want to exclude anything, but it seems difficult to me.

(Comments collected by Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) British, architect of the revival of the Labor Party, he was Minister twice in the government of Tony Blair.

NB: interview conducted by telephone and published in Ouest-France at the beginning of August. Photo credit: European Commission

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).