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Don't forget about Doha.

The Vienna Summit Declaration of 21 June 2006 covers a wide range range of common EU and US interests. Two short paragraphs cover key issues in international economic development. How are these two paragraphs to be read?

Issues covered range from peace to sustainable development. In amongst the big strategic agenda there is an agendum item listed as ‘Fostering prosperity and opportunity’. The section of the declaration, though dealing mainly with Trans-Atlantic economic initiatives touches briefly on the ‘Doha Development Agenda’ and on the achievement of the ‘Millennium Development Goals’. Both are important areas of concern and though less dramatic than other areas such as ‘security’ or 'peace' are no less important.

The issue of trade liberalization in agricultural produce is one of the key issues of the Doha Round. No reference is made to progress in the declaration with respect to agricultural trade. An ‘ambitious and balanced agreement’ that is capable of ‘improving living standards’ and of reducing poverty, must, if only by implication, mean facing-up to agricultural subsidies in the developed market economies. The communiqué calls for ‘an agreement that is worthy of the objectives identified in launching the Doha Development Agenda’. Is there likely to be significant progress on this issue given the Common Agricultural Policy? Can something more than the removal of export subsidies be possible? Is the risk of failure so great? Are trade ministers being sent a significant message or is this mere face saving?

With respect to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the declaration is bland indeed: ‘We will increase our partnership with developing countries to promote growth globally for the benefit of all’. At least the notion of achieving the Millennium Goals has not vanished from summit discussion but is this kind of vagueness the best that can be expected? Do such statements do more harm than good? It is certainly hard to see in such statements what the implications might be or how the contradictions of economic globalization (between, say, growth and income distribution) may be resolved. ‘Trade ministers’ are identified with action with respect to Doha, with just a hint (or perhaps more than a hint, depending on how such statments are intended to be read) of urgency— ‘We recognize the need for trade ministers to make substantial progress on core negotiating areas over the next few weeks … ‘. Can we conclude that progress has been slower than even the most cynical expected and that this is a call for action? What, if anything, hangs on such a statement? Any potential actors with respect to the Millennium Goals are left vague and indeterminate. Does this matter?

There is bound to be a protocol for writing summit statements. How does a 'communiqué' differ from a ‘declaration’? What precise commitments do summit participants make when they make a 'declaration'? What, I wonder in addition, is the protocol for reading such documents? Should we just be pleased that they even noticed the issues highlighted here?