Thursday, June 25, 2009

U.S. calls for new approach in Doha trade talks

By Jonathan Lynn
GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States called on Thursday for a new approach to concluding the long-running Doha round to free up world trade. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Washington wanted to negotiate directly with key trading partners in the World Trade Organization talks as the traditional multilateral approach was not working. Major emerging countries said they would reject calls for bilateral concessions.
"We believe we have to start with an honest assessment that continuing on the same path that we have engaged in for the last three rounds will most likely yield the same result and that would be a failure to come to a successful conclusion," Kirk told a news conference.
From the current incomplete package of deals it was clear what the United States would give up but hard to see exactly what it would gain, he said, given the many exceptions to an overall agreement for various countries, making the deal opaque.
"We think getting more clarity around that may be the key to helping us find a solution to a way forward," Kirk said after a meeting of ministers at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Kirk has also called on big emerging countries to open their markets further to foreign goods to help secure a deal in the Doha talks, launched in late 2001 to help poor countries prosper through trade.
But the trade ministers from India, Brazil and South Africa, meeting on the sidelines of the OECD, rejected that call and said any renewed dialogue must be part of a "transparent and inclusive multilateral process."
"At this final stage of negotiations, in the midst of the worst economic environment since the Great Depression of the 1930s, it would be unreasonable and unrealistic to assume that further unilateral concessions from developing countries will be forthcoming, especially in the context of the current economic crisis," the three ministers said in a statement.
Developing countries fear they could be strongarmed into an unbalanced deal through a one-on-one approach.
The Doha talks have been effectively on ice since a meeting of ministers in July failed to clinch an outline deal.
A number of positive comments in recent weeks, not least from Kirk and his new Indian counterpart Anand Sharma, have kindled hopes the talks could resume shortly.
But the differences between rich and emerging countries over process and substance underline how difficult it will be to conclude the negotiations, which WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy says are 80 percent complete.
Developing countries say they are under pressure to open up while rich countries have hedged their sensitive farm sectors around with waivers and get-outs to any deal, and EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel ruled out any new concessions.
"We have tried our very best and we don`t move," Fischer Boel told reporters in Paris after meeting the newly appointed French farm minister, Bruno Le Maire, who echoed her words.
WTO chief Lamy told the OECD meeting that completing Doha "through a multilateral negotiating process coupled with bilateral discreet contacts among players" was all the more important because trade was expected to contract by 10 percent this year -- 14 percent in developed countries and 7 percent in developing countries.
The economic crisis underlying this contraction was also giving rise to protectionist pressures, he said.  Continued...
Original article

No comments: