Negotiating aid vs. the Goliaths

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It is late at night in a bar by the Zambezi river when Dipak Patel, trade minister from the impoverished southern African state of Zambia, finds the perfect way to illustrate how hard his job is. “So how many people does the Financial Times have covering trade?” he says. Well, I say, there’s me (the world trade editor), a reporter in Geneva who spends most of her time on trade, someone in Brussels, someone in Washington, and of course our bureau chiefs and reporters around the world spend a fair amount of their time writing about it. “God,” Patel says, contemplating the rows of luxury cognac bottles behind the bar, waiting for the rich tourists. “The FT has more capacity to do trade policy than we do.”

And that is just the start of Alan Beattie’s excellent article in this weekend’s Financial Times. A must read, the article is not just a profile of the charismatic Patel - whose voice must speak for 50 of the world’s poorest nations at the upcoming WTO negotiations – but also a great summary of the issues on the negotiating agenda and the huge obstacles poorer countries face when competing against the powerhouse trade teams of richer members. Lots of facts and commentary, with even better anecdotes mixed in.

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