labels: World Trade Organisation
US proposes mini meet to revive Doha talks news
05 September 2008

Susan SchwabSusan Schwab, the US Trade Representative has said senior trade officials from a small number of countries will meet in Geneva to explore ways to restart the failed Doha round of global trade talks held in Geneva in end July.

It took nearly eight years for the Uruguay Round of trade talks to be concluded, so it is not surprising that since this round would be the largest trade deal in history, WTO director general Pascal Lamy has been visiting various capitals round the globe trying to convince world leaders to restart the trade talks.

On his visit to Norway, he said, ''talks should restart from next Tuesday in Geneva at a senior official level.''

The Geneva ministerial level talks held in July collapsed of trade talks in July this year due to the disagreement between India and China on one side pitted against the US in particular and the EU nations over a special safeguard mechanism that would allow developing nations to impose a special tariff on agricultural goods if imports surge or prices fall. (See: Free trade hopes fade as WTO talks collapse)

Lamy had recently visited India and the United States recently. The two countries have been at loggerheads with each other over US agricultural subsidies and Indian import agricultural import restrictions.

The collapse of the Doha Round of World Trade talks was one of those rare occasions when most political leaders wanted to keep out of the news. As various countries are now tying up bilateral trade agreements after the latest failure of trade talks, France, Australia, Canada and Brazil are urging India and the US to restart the trade talks.

The Indian government told Lamy that it was willing to return to the global trade talks if the US believes the deadlock can be broken. Pascal Lamy held talks with US trade negotiator Susan Schwab in Washington on Friday in an effort to breathe life into the moribund Doha Round of negotiations.

Speaking to reporters Schwab said that the US wanted to see the Doha round to succeed, adding, "We also know we're not the hold-up," Schwab said, reminding reporters of the oft-repeated US stand that the trade talks had failed due to the rigid stance taken by both India and China.

She said that as part of the G7 in July, the US was "pushing for and making the compromises" to secure an agreement, but there were those who were "less inclined to participate."

It belittles the fact that after participating in 18 items for discussion, she had walked out of the talks abruptly just before the crucial 19th item could on US cotton subsidies be taken up, which was supposed to be one of the most contested issues in the Doha round of world trade talks.

Brazil is looking for punitive damages of around $4 billion in trade sanctions on US imports for US failing to scrap illegal subsidies paid to its cotton growers by asking WTO to resume the arbitration process which it had held back, hoping for an amicable solution under the failed trade talks in Geneva. (See: Brazil considering trade sanction on US over cotton subsidies)

From the European Union, France, a major agricultural producer, and Ireland have been defending European farm subsidies although French President Nicolas Sarkozy has since mellowed down, saying that in the past that major industrialised nations dictated terms and developing countries fell in line, but that has changed with emerging powers like India, China and Brazil now playing a key role in global economy are just as important for securing a deal.

Sarkozy, addressing French diplomats, said that this impasse calls for a change in the way WTO conducts its business and added "Should we continue another seven years without changing anything?"

How this round of talks by senior trade officials pan out is anybody's guess as the United States clings to agricultural subsidies and antidumping policies while developing nations wanting US domestic subsidies reduced, its antidumping measures ended, and barriers to accessing US markets removed.


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US proposes mini meet to revive Doha talks