Based on the final draft communiqué secured by the Financial Times1 , the G20 leaders are expected to renew their promise to fight first and foremost against protectionism. The document, which consists of 24 points, emphasizes that the opening up of the markets and free trade is a "crucial driver of growth in the world economy”. Accordingly, for a "further 12 months", it reiterates the commitments that the governments made last November not to resort to protectionist measures (tariff barriers, trade restraints, etc.), "including within existing WTO limits".
However, it goes one step further, reaffirming the need to "reach a rapid agreement (…) on modalities leading to a successful conclusion of the Doha Round" something that the political decision makers have kept repeating over the last three months2The communiqué estimates the resulting gains for the world economy at USD 150 billion per annum.
In doing so, the draft communiqué confirms the rumors that preceded the G20: the fight against protectionism has become the number one priority of the governments over the past few months, while the conclusion of the Doha cycle is currently seen as the best means to reach it, due to its powerful political signal.
Although it is important to welcome the commitment of the G20 to fight against protectionism, we should warn the governments that the current efforts and strategies may bring about the exact opposite result because of the "two-faced" nature of the Doha cycle. Although this sends a positive signal in terms of boosting international cooperation and trust, there is good reason to worry that concluding the cycle may lead to protectionist responses, as shown in our press release (published on March 31, 2009)3 , in so far as it will certainly destabilize global food security.
Moreover, the gains claimed in the communiqué are very doubtful. Not only do they not suffice to ensure global food security (they only account for USD 2.5/year per capita), but they are also overestimated, because the international institutions rely on inadequate models that neglect essential variables such as exchange rate, the volatility of prices or speculators. On the other hand, if we assume that the gains are actually USD 150 billion, nothing indicates how they will be distributed among the various countries in the world and, in every country, among the various categories of people, or how many years the international community could benefit from them. At any rate, the momagri model4 shows that farmers in all the countries in the world, except for Brazil, shall see their income diminishing, sometimes in a drastic manner.
In a nutshell, we continue to move forward at a fast pace through thick fog. As a result, the conclusion of the Doha cycle should be weighed up wisely and thought out fully. It is definitely a tempting political signal in these troubled times, but it is too dangerous in economic and strategic terms because the risks of reversals are high and, for the time being, they have not been evaluated by political decision makers at all.
1 Financial Times, "G20 draft communiqué" 03/29/2009
2 See momagri, "Doha Round’s Return into Favor Calls for Caution" 02/03/2009 http://www.momagri.org/UK/Focus-on-issues/Doha-Round-s-Return-into-Favor-Calls-for-Caution_448.html
3 See momagri, "Food Security: An Absolute Priority for the G-20 Summit” 30/03/2009 http://www.momagri.org/UK/Points-of-view/Food-Security-An-Absolute-Priority-for-the-G-20-Summit_466.html
4 See momagri, "Far from Preventing it, a WTO Agreement on Agriculture Could Drive the World Straight to Protectionism!" 30/03/2009 http://www.momagri.org/UK/Focus-on-issues/Far-from-Preventing-it-a-WTO-Agreement-on-Agriculture-Could-Drive-the-World-Straight-to-Protectionism-_465.html