Seven years of talks have collapsed, as the World Trade Organization failed to negotiate a compromise between rich and developing nations on farming subsidies.
The primary antagonists were the United States v. India and China. None relented on the issue of how and whether to protect poor farmers against a flood of imported produce.
According to the New York Times analysis, that does not bode well for that other ongoing, multiyear international negotiation, about a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on reducing global warming pollution:
The failure also delivers a blow to the credibility of the World Trade Organization, which sets and enforces the rules of international commerce. It could set back efforts to work out other multilateral agreements, including those intended to reduce the threat of global warming.
The United Nations has been urging nations to agree to a new framework in Copenhagen in 2009. Meanwhile, President Bush has started a parallel process among the world's top polluters.
A key question perhaps the key question has always been what to do about developing nations that historically produced little pollution, but which have recently been pumping out huge amounts. China recently surpassed the United States as the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, but the United States has still produced the most throughout its industrialized history, and still produces the most per capita.
If these nations can't agree on the details of how to trade nicely something that has a clear national benefit, to the economy it's hard to imagine them agreeing to rules that might hobble their economies, at least in the short term.
But a new president in the White House also could change the dynamics on the international stage. Many who want to see a strong international agreement on global warming have eagerly anticipated a change in the White House, since both leading candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, have expressed more wholehearted support for reducing emissions at home with new regulations.
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