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While US negotiators continue to hammer on the European Union to improve its offer on agricultural market access in the Doha trade talks, US intransigience is holding up progress on agricultural subsidy cuts. One of the few achievements thus far in the negotiations is agreement that there should be caps on the amount of subsidy for specific commodities, such as cotton. US negotiators are insisting on using 1999-2001 as the base period for setting these caps, while other negotiators want to use a longer period average, for 1995-2000.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf addressed a Joint Session of Congress on March 15th. This is only the second time in the last decade that an African Head of State has addressed Congress – the first being South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. She was superb. The combination of humility, resolve, courage, strength of purpose, and vision, along with great communication skills, made it one of the best speeches I have seen on any topic in a long time.
The White House’s updated National Security Strategy, released yesterday, offers an unapologetic if rose-tinted defense of Bush administration policies since September 2002, when the previous NSS appeared. Although most of the chapter headings are the same (“Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity,” “Expand the Circle of Development,” etc.), the new version goes well beyond broad declarations of unassailable principles: it seeks to marshal evidence of administration success in achieving these goals.
Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University, spoke yesterday at CGD (video clip available) to describe his Millennium Villages Project. Sachs’s argument is generally that countries like India developed not by ineffectual, small amounts of foreign aid – as he argues the US delivers today – but by creating a Green Revolution. Communities learned to work together, and with fertilizers donated in part by the United States, they became able to feed themselves and eventually to begin developing.
The death Saturday of former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic (see the BBC Online for one of the many obits) provides only cold comfort to the thousands of families shattered by his policies of ugly nationalism during the 1990s.
Mark Sobel, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Monetary and Financial Policy at the U.S. Treasury, has written to CGD president Nancy Birdsall stating that the U.S. is in favor of changes that would allow Asian and other emerging market economies to increase their voice in the IMF and thus make the Fund more representative and legitimate.
Getting people to talk to one another is a good idea. In London this week, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and CGD sponsored a meeting of European researchers and officials to discuss the best way of building evidence about what works in developing country social programs. The participants were concerned that the primary obstacle to making progress was a lack of demand for impact studies in developing countries.