labels: economy - general, world trade organisation, agriculture
WTO: For Lamy, its time to "crack heads"news
04 July 2006
Geneva: World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy has promised to "crack heads" in the search for consensus as he embarks upon a fresh round of meetings aimed at securing a global free trade agreement before an end of July deadline.

According to reports, Lamy is trying to convene a last-ditch summit of the US, Australia, the European Union, Japan, Brazil, and India. Reports suggest that the summit could materialise at, or just before, the meeting of G8 leaders in St Petersburg, Russia, which is beginning on 15 July.

Observers believe that only a concerted effort now by world leaders can push through the trade concessions that their negotiators have been unable to achieve.

Lamy flies to Japan on Tuesday to see prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Last week's Geneva meeting ended in a fiasco with the divide between the developing economies and the developed ones more stark than ever before. It even spurred ministers to exit from the conference earlier than scheduled, with India's commerce minister Kamal Nath being one of the early, and prominent, ones to leave.

The mini-ministerial collapsed two days before its scheduled end, with the US adamant on retaining the domestic support that it extends to agriculture. Its stand forced developing countries led by India and Brazil to take a tough stand saying that there will be no compromise on agriculture as it was an issue of subsistence and livelihood of poor farmers, sources said.

Observers say that the US now holds the key to break the impasse, for any forward movement is now dependent on Washington climbing down on the issue.

The United States trade representative Susan C Schwab, repeatedly maintained that the Doha round, named for the Qatari capital where the WTO started it, must achieve an "ambitious outcome." This, translated in trade language, meant deep tariff cuts by large developing markets such as India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa, with few exceptions for special products, to generate significant new trade around the world.

On Monday EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said that the US "wants ambition" for the world trade talks, but was "not prepared to pay enough for that ambition".

"I am simply asking the US - as I am asking others - not to ask so much from others that they are not prepared to match by putting in a comparable amount to enable these talks to come to a successful conclusion."

With the so-called Doha round of trade talks already long delayed, trade ministers currently have until the end of July to agree on outline proposals, ahead of a potential final deal being signed by the end of this year. These deadlines are of some concern, as a year from now the special authority US President George W Bush has to negotiate trade deals will expire.

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WTO: For Lamy, its time to "crack heads"