Friday, December 16, 2005

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When trade negotiators get cranky

What happens when you stick great power trade ministers in a green room in a strange city, deprive them of sleep, and then throw some spanners into the negotiating machine?

They get damn cranky is what happens.

I just left a series of press conferences, and pretty much everyone was tired, frustrated, and occasionally pissed off. The Americans, the Brazilians, the West Africans, and especially the Europeans were all upset. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson had the following utterances at his press conference:

Some people in Hong Kong will lose their strategic gains by pursuing tactical maneuvers.... The level of ambition [in the Doha round] is going backwards.... [There is] no clear basis for negotiations.... Hard to see where progress can be achieved in Hong Kong.
If I were WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, I'd suggest a nice "time out" for tomorrow. And maybe some snack time.

UPDATE: The Independent publishes a day in the life of Peter Mandelson that reaffirms this point: [Mandelson] has been asleep for five hours and ahead of him are 10 meetings spread over at least 18 hours. Welcome to the mad, mad world of global trade negotiations....

Mr Mandelson is also garnering a reputation of squashing journalists whose questions he doesn't like. On Tuesday he destroyed a German reporter and now he shows his exasperation at an Indian journalist who asks a question that, in fairness, he has answered twice already.

posted by Dan on 12.16.05 at 02:00 AM


Yeah, I don't understand the late-night aspects of it...apparently there are meetings of the top negotiators--the so-called "green room"--that start at 10:30 pm? Perhaps folks such as Lamy just think that things won't get done at a normal hour, when people will feel they can stall, speechify perhaps...

posted by: Chris on 12.16.05 at 02:00 AM [permalink]

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