- Title: SWITZERLAND: WTO tries to revive free trade talks
- Date: 23rd June 2007
- Summary: (BN14) GENEVA, SWITZERLAND ()JUNE 22, 2007) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF THE WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION (WTO) HEADQUARTERS
- Embargoed: 8th July 2007 13:00
- Location: Switzerland
- Country: Switzerland
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA760YQXH9YK1HR3G555L5H1YT7
- Story Text: The World Trade Organisation holds a crisis session to try to salvage the Doha free trade negotiations, one day after talks between four major powers collapsed. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) held a crisis session at its headquarters in Geneva on Friday (June 22) to try to get free trade negotiations back on track, one day after talks collapsed between the four major economic powers of the G4 group.
The Potsdam meeting broke up in acrimony at the half-way stage after the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India failed to bridge their differences over farm subsidies and industrial tariffs.
Following Thursday's breakdown, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy summoned the WTO's Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) to underline that the search for an agreement would go on.
Launched in the Qatari capital Doha in late 2001, the WTO round aims to ease poverty by giving poorer countries more opportunities to trade.
But it faced problems from the start, mainly over the issue of agriculture, which is highly sensitive almost everywhere.
Washington and Brussels have demanded that any deal that significantly cuts agricultural protections must open new export markets around the world in farming, manufacturing and services.
Developing economies are looking for new opportunities to export their own farm and manufacturing goods. They argue rich countries should not expect big new market access in exchange for cutting their trade-distorting farm subsidies and tariffs.
According to many trade officials, any agreement to ease poverty and boost global economy risks years of delay if not failure, if a deal cannot be struck in the coming months.
The White House's authority to negotiate trade deals expires at the end June and Congress, which is now controlled by the Democratic Party, may not renew it, putting a stop to any negotiations between United States and other parties.
Susan Schwab, United States' Trade Representative, came to Geneva to have various informal meetings, including with WTO chief Pascal Lamy.
"There is always a chance, if you are determined not to give up, and the United States is determined not to give up on the Doha round, we have to say there's always a chance. We will negotiate with wherever and with whomever we need to if there's some chance of getting this back on track, but right now things look pretty grim, but we haven't given up", she said.
Schwab expressed her confidence president Bush's Treaty Promotion Authority would be renewed by the United States Congress.
"I think a lot of members of Congress understand that the world trading system will move ahead with or without us, that the United States has a lot to gain from being fully engaged and continuing to be a leader in the trading system, and that includes our ability to negotiate both multilateral and bilateral regional agreements", she said.
Failure could undermine confidence in the global trading system and trigger a surge of commercial disputes, particularly over agriculture which has long proved the most difficult issue in the WTO talks, trade analysts say.
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