Do I detect a change of direction in the winds? Ever since the Battle of Seattle, respectable opinion has focused on American, European, and Japanese agricultural subsidies - to a tune of $300 billion a year - as the great injustice of the global economic system. Almost 5 years later, the poor nations of the world, led by Brazil, China and India, have convinced the US and EU to confront their powerful agriculture lobbies.
Although the proposed deal would only create a framework for further talks, it would for the first time commit the European Union to eliminating its controversial farm export subsidies
The United States yielded to pressure from developing countries on Friday and agreed to make a 20 percent cut in some of the $19 billion in subsidies it pays to American farmers each year.
This during an election year, no less.
Not everyone was satisfied with the concessions. A delegate from the Dominican Republic said the proposed framework agreement was still a betrayal of developing countries. And Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam International in Geneva, said that the rich countries could create new subsidies by using loopholes in the agreement.
Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, the Dutch economy minister and chairman of a delegation of ministers from the European Union, disagreed. He argued that the proposed agreement reflected the growing muscle of the developing world, especially of countries like Brazil, China and India.
I thought the Bush administration was chronically unilateralist. What gives? Even the hated WTO is impinging on our beloved rogue state's sovereignty:
Since the failure of the talks in Cancún, the United States lost a case brought by Brazil that challenged its cotton subsidies as illegal. That case, before the World Trade Organization's dispute body, could force the United States to lower its cotton subsidies even without these negotiations.
The trade talks aren't a done deal, however.
But talks could run aground on such issues as how much Japan can protect its rice or Norway its dairy products. Celso Amorim, the top trade negotiator for Brazil and an important negotiator here, said there were still several disputes to be resolved.
Oh, is that all?