WTO, Neuroscience and Impasse
(photo by Maureen Flynn-Burhoe)
We follow high-level negotiations, as well as the small commercial dispute, here. No matter the stakes, the dynamics are the same. See, for example, today's AP article, Collapse of WTO Talks Puts Trade Deal in Limbo.
What's at stake?
a new world trade pact aimed at adding billions of dollars to the global economy and lifting millions of out of poverty.
Who are the negotiating parties? The United States, the European Union, Brazil and India.
Are there feelings, i.e., emotions involved? Have we mentioned recently neuroscientist Antonio Damasio's research on people whose brain injuries interfered with their ability to feel emotion? They could make endless pro and con lists, but couldn't make decisions. Why? Because there is a pro and con to every choice we make. Paper or plastic? Fish or Meat? Peace or warfare? Settle the lawsuit or try it?
In the absence of a feeling that makes us desire one outcome more than another, we are at a total loss.
How does impasse feel? If you'd been a WTO negotiator, your
emotions rang[ed] from anger to confusion [as they] left Potsdam on Friday knowing they had failed to break a six-year logjam between rich and poor countries over eliminating barriers to trade in farm produce and manufactured goods.
And the angry and confused government officials? Do they think their own bargaining position is to blame or do they believe that their negotiating partners are acting in bad faith? Let's see.
European and American officials questioned Brazil's intentions and wondered if it intentionally blocked progress to curry favor with developing countries, many of whom were unhappy with the private negotiations among the four powers.
Brazilians accused Washington and Brussels of agreeing beforehand to protect their agricultural interests.
Many officials criticized Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath for arriving late on Tuesday after missing a flight and having a return scheduled ahead of the summit's end.
All sides said they negotiated in good faith.
The reasons for impasse and ways to break it will be the subject of a lengthy weekend post.