Mumbai: Developing countries are anxious to arrive at a WTO deal before July next year. That is when President George Bush's "fast track" powers are due to end and it remains unlikely whether the Democrats, who rode to power earlier this month, would necessarily vote to renew it.
That implies that any agreement must be arrived at by March or April to allow time for the paperwork to be finalised for the presidential nod by July.
In a joint bylined article in The Wall Street Journal yesterday the US treasury secretary Henry Paulson and the UK's chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown argued that urgent action was needed to restart the global trade talks.
Commentators treat this as signal to the world community that the US may be preparing to yield some ground to help resolve to some extent the breakdown in talks in negotiations in July this.
Yesterday Reuters had quoted European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson that the EU had proposed that some trade ministers meet before the end of the year to revive attempts to arrive at an agreement on global trade.
British prime minister Tony Blair has also said that he would hold talks with other European countries, the US and Brazil in the next few weeks to try to get the stalled world trade negotiations back on track.
He said that every one had to be persuaded to cede some ground. Blair said that the developing countries must be prepared to give "something more" to enable freer access to their markets for industrial goods while Europe had to be prepared to show more flexibility on agriculture, and the US had to be willing to cut farm subsidies beyond what it was currently prepared to.
Blair even pushed captains of industry at the annual Confederation of British Industry gathering to urge them to push hard for a new trade pact, saying if business did not start lobbying hard on this, "you guys will lose from this world trade round not going through."
He warned that unless the talks moved forward now before the US president's mandate ran out, it was unlikely that he or any future president would succeed in winning "a more radical mandate," from US lawmakers.
World trade talks, being held in Geneva in July 2006, had broken down due to disagreement essentially over trade and farm subsidies.Negotiators from the EU, US, Japan, Australia, , Brazil and India have been insisting for concessions from others as a pre-condition for making any further concessions. The negotiators had failed even to open the issue of market access to non-agricultural products.
Amidst the attempts by the developed nations to revive the stalled trade talks, environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth yesterday warned that plans by the UK and the US to revive talks would hurt the world's poorest people.
The group warned that should the world's poorer nations sign up to trade proposals that have been put forward so far then infant industry and farmers in developing countries would be exposed to unfair competition from powerful multinational companies and farmers would be driven off their.
Friends of the Earth also warns that opening up markets for non-agricultural products such as forests and fish would threaten the natural resources that millions of people (in poorer countries) depend upon for their daily survival.
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trade talks collapse