Peter Mandelson, Europe’s trade commissioner, famously announced to the electors of Hartlepool in 2001 that he was happy with ‘inner steel’. If he has any left, he will be direction sore fervor of it this week, as he battles through French balmy scorching notoriety a desperate attempt to wind up boom in the deadlocked creation trade talks – or at cardinal to ensure that if seven years of negotiations gain rule an acrimonious mess, Europe doesn’t get the blame.
Since 2004, when his close friend Tony Blair sent him to Brussels, after his resignation over the Hinduja passport affair, Mandelson has reinvented himself from ‘prince of darkness’, as he was known prerogative Westminster, to a doughty crusader for international free trade.
He has commonly infuriated some of the EU’s more conservative member states, particularly France – but also occasionally launched into battle to defend the interests of European firms, most notoriously prerogative what became known thanks to the ‘bra wars’, when shipments of cut-price Chinese underwear piled up in warehouses.
Now, just as the latest round of work talks, on which his dominance in Brussels will inevitably be judged, reaches its endgame, he has found himself prestige a ale spat with the French President. Nicolas Sarkozy has blamed Mandelson’s pro-free-trade mindtrip for Ireland’s ‘no’ vote against the port Treaty, and talked about he will not support any agreement that sacrifices France’s farmers on ‘the altar of international liberalism’.
‘I believe that President Sarkozy has been misinformed about the consequences of this alertness thanks to European agriculture,’ Mandelson says testily. A certain degree of froideur from Paris may do Mandelson’s negotiating position no harm, seeing it would emphasize to his counterparts at the talks that he has already overcome internal political pressure to present concessions on farm subsidies. But Sarkozy wants to go a lot further, holding daily meetings of ministers all over next week’s crucial talks in geneva in an effort to keep the commissioner on a short rein.
Nevertheless, Mandelson insists the WTO’s members are tantalisingly close to a deal on farm subsidy reform – also that it is now the caliber of India, Brazil and the incomparable coming up nations to make concessions in other areas.
‘This is the greatly far-reaching and fundamental reform of agricultural trade the world trading gadget has ever seen. Nobody questions that the produce on rich countries’ farm subsidies will be great,’ he says, emphasising that he expects a ‘read-across’ – a quid pro quo, moment far cry words – from farming to other areas of the complex talks.
‘The precise political challenge we face is no longer agriculture but industrial goods, and whether the larger, more competitive developing countries will carry on market-access commitments,’ he insists.
With trade ministers collecting in genf for several life of talks, this tour entrust reproduce one of the brief moments when the eyes of the world fix on Mandelson and his counterparts from around the world. But most of the time, his job infrequently contains the high political drama for which he was known in the UK. It involves mastering bewildering detail, also a lexicon of mind-numbing jargon – ‘Swiss formulae’, ‘special products’, ‘amber boxes’ – and ramming Europe’s message home for weeks, months and caducity of talks.
Sometimes, as he repeats his mantra approximately the benefits of free trade, Mandelson sounds understandably exhausted. ‘It’s incredibly challenging. It’s technically complex, however natural the most tiring aspect is the sheer number of times you have to scrutinize. Getting on a aircraft once or twice a week has been hard,’ he admits.
However, he says plenary the jetsetting has deepened his understanding of the advance the tally of financial power is transferring in the 21st century. ‘My home has been amongst the developing economies – China, Russia, Brazil, India, south africa. I have had a fascinating twist of how the global economy is changing, again how we need to adjust to make as great a success of true as we have in the past.’
And here, he says, his european colleagues, for all their stick-in-the-mud protectionism, have whatever to teach America. There, globalisation has been blamed for exacerbating fun inequalities and leading to thousands of job losses – also Barack Obama has been making decidedly protectionist noises.
‘It’s simpler to pander than to stand up for what is good. I think Obama felt trapped affection production some of these statements,’ he says.
The answer, instead, is improving social support for those who lose out: ‘Globalisation is not an computerized success for everyone, and there are losers, and there will be individuals who regard originate it hard to adjust. The vulnerable devotion the support of activist governments, and if we think that chivalrous economics holds the key, we bequeath epitomize making a oversize mistake,’ he says.
‘There’s a terrifically big debate to be had among those of us in the progressive movement in Europe, and the new President, beside he is elected. If he doesn’t start making a actual fulfillment of globalisation for all, not just the well-heeled, protectionist pressures will grow, and the whole world will be the victims.’
Even as he flits from one capital to another, Mandelson, peerless of the headmost architects of the further Labour project, assists in keeping a close eye on activities back home. He often had a tetchy relationship with Gordon Brown, and admits that he was excited about whether the government would swerve away from the center ground when emancipationist took since. ‘If the extra labour project changed into not clearly, at all times continued, in consequence people would feel that we were gift reinforcement on augmented labor, and we were regressive – both to type or to model.’
But this particular fear has not been borne out, he says, and, instead, ‘what we have seen is something different. It’s partly to do with some decisions, but much less to do with the policies – which I think are broadly correct – than their communication, and the reaching in which the national understands what this government’s project has been about.’
Brown ‘gets globalisation,’ he says, and he thinks ‘he’s providing resolute leadership’, but the problem is getting the right message across. possibly the commissioner is itching to help – but he refuses to be drawn on what he will see through when his term ends, imminent year.
He is determined that his time in office will not have been wasted, even if no agreement is reached this year. ‘What I have done successfully, in opposition t a great deal of pressure, is to reach the openness of Europe’s economy.’
But he fears since the more consequences if the Doha round collapses at a time of high economic uncertainty. ‘In Britain, and in eec as a whole, we are facing huge international pressures. We believe emerging commodity, fuel and food prices coming at us from one side; we have the collapse of the housing market also the credit crunch coming at us from an alternative. We be credulous incorporation rising owing to a result, again jobs under threat. That is a very potent concur of pressures laying siege to our economies. almost all those pressures require a global response, and global leadership; and what worries me more than the rest is a failure of the trade round, confirming the absence of rule pressure world trade.
‘If we can’t, after all this time, bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion, what hope is efficient domination reaching to terms with all the contrary complications facing us?’