You may have mixed opinions on the Wikileaks US cable releases, - whether they are in the public interest or just publicly interesting - a concept responsible journalists wrestle with all the time. However, there have been some 'revelations', or confirmations to some of us, of the true negotiating positions of several country delegations.
Of particular note is the backroom negotiating style of the US Government. It appears that the US, in trying to appease Japan into accepting a 'deal' that would allow for the legitimising of commercial whaling, sought to trade northern hemisphere humpback whales for Japan's compliance.
Despite being fully aware of the increased commercialisation of the Greenland hunt the US was willing to campaign for the killing of humpbacks in the northern hemisphere.
The US was desperately trying to get Iceland to reduce its self-allocated quota and was looking for issues that may engage Japan to ‘help’ deliver a deal.
The Cables report that Japan stated that there were factors outside the current ‘Future of the IWC’ [the deal] negotiations that would influence Japan's negotiating position and that the ‘First, a negative outcome in the vote at next year's  IWC intersessional meeting on Greenland's proposal to catch ten humpback whales could derail the work of the Support Group. …and another rejection at the IWC plenary meeting could make the overall compromise being discussed impossible.’
The US IWC Commissioner appointed by President Obama, Ms. Medina, is reported in the cables to have said that ‘she hopes to work out differences with the EU on Greenland's proposal on humpback whales prior to the March 2010 IWC intersessional meeting and include the issue in the overall agreement.’
Indeed, as the IWC meetings then revealed, the US played an important role in driving through the final Greenland whaling quota that included humpbacks.
What is also striking on reading the cables is that the US appears to have been mistakenly staking its negotiating position on the fact that Iceland was the only blocking player in their campaign to achieve a resumption of commercial whaling and Wikileaks reports that the US requested of the ‘MOFA [Japanese Fisheries Agency] State Secretary Fukuyama and Fisheries Agency Deputy Director General Yamashita to press Iceland to lower its proposed quota for whaling in order to facilitate an overall agreement on whaling’.
The US negotiating position was that for a resumption of whaling to be achieved, all that was needed was for all countries ‘to take [a] reasonable approach’ - very different to their public anti-whaling position.
The US negotiations with Japan about Iceland appear to have been predicated on the argument that Japan could not absorb all the whale meat that Iceland was taking, not that the hunt was irresponsible and should stop.
Whilst we welcome the recent moves in the US that may result in the USA certifying and sanctioning Iceland, one must question why the US, which has been publicly opposed to resumption in whale meat trade, appears to have been willing to open up discussions on trade, and we have to ask, were they implicitly ‘agreeing’ to accept future trade in whale products? Indeed, the US is reported to have said that it ‘did not recommend Japan take any measures to restrict trade’.
Humpbacks, future trade, one must question what was the US was not willing to negotiate away? Read the cables and see what you think.
Thursday, January 6. 2011