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Trade powers pick up pace of WTO rescue push

July 17, 2006

By Robert Evans and Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) – Ministers from the world’s top trading
nations intensified attempts to rescue a global commerce deal
on Monday after signals that their political leaders could be
more flexible.

World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy warned the Doha
round was doomed to failure without more room for maneuver and
soon after the ministers from the so-called Group of Six agreed
to meet again on July 23-24 and July 28-29 in Geneva.

“The moment of truth will emerge in the next two weeks,”
Indian trade minister Kamal Nath told reporters after brief
discussions with ministers and officials from the European
Union, the United States, Brazil, Japan, and Australia.

Monday’s meeting in Geneva was called quickly after leaders
of the industrialized G8 countries on Sunday set a one-month
deadline to get the Doha round back on track.

The WTO’s Doha round was launched in 2001 as a way to
tackle poverty and boost the global economy. But it is now two
years behind schedule and risks a delay of several more, or
complete collapse, without a deal in the next few weeks.

“At this stage, the deadlock in which we are caught will
lead us to failure very soon if you do not give your ministers
further room for negotiation,” Lamy told the leaders of the G8
and developing nations on Monday, according to a WTO statement.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he,
President Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva had shown they could take steps to get the round moving
again at the G8 meeting in Russia.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the time had
come for negotiators to check what kind of concessions they can
make.

“I think the next step for us is to go back to our capitals
to see what sort of flexibility to bring back to the table,”
she told reporters after Monday’s Geneva meeting.

Schwab is due to meet important congressional committees on
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

DEADLINE

Monday’s meeting in Geneva focused on procedure rather than
substance, India’s Nath told reporters.

Key to progress is how much the United States will cut farm
subsidies, how much the EU will lower tariffs on farm imports
and how much developing countries will reduce barriers to
industrial and service imports.

Barroso said Brussels probably had enough room for maneuver
in its negotiating mandate from EU member states but it could
ask for a new, broader one if needed. Schwab had a mandate from
Bush to search for a “robust” Doha round, her spokesman said.

Leaders of emerging nations such as China, India and Brazil
attended a session on trade along with G8 leaders on Monday.

G8 officials said the position of Brazil, which with India
heads the influential G20 bloc of developing countries, was key
after the G8 presented a united front on the talks.

“I am convinced that now is the time for us to make a
political decision,” said Lula, adding negotiators had no more
“hidden cards in their pockets.”

Without a breakthrough in the next few weeks, experts say
the whole round could be put on ice for several years as the
U.S. president’s “fast track” power to approve trade deals is
due to expire in mid-2007.

An international business group said it was waiting to see
real results.

“G8 leaders have time and again committed themselves to
deadlines and results for the Doha Round that were not
fulfilled,” the International Chamber of Commerce said in a
statement. “The business community will not be waving any flags
until it sees solid progress in the few months left.”

(Additional reporting by Doug Busvine, Caren Bohan, Jeff
Mason, Louis Charbonneau, Gernot Heller and David Clarke in St
Petersburg)


Source: reuters



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