Trading powers who have embarked on an intensified push for a new trade deal sought by political leaders must go faster if they are to have any hope of finishing the Doha round this year, the head of the WTO said Feb. 2.
Trade ministers meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos last month agreed to push for an outline agreement by July and to tell their negotiators at the World Trade Organization to show enough flexibility to clinch a deal in the long-running talks. But WTO director-general Pascal Lamy told a meeting of the trade body’s 153 members to review progress on the nine-year-old talks that movement on substance in real negotiations was needed as well as a change in mood.
“Atmospheric improvement is good and important, but we will not advance on air alone,” he said.
Lamy said it was clear the broad negotiating groups were now working hard, but much more must be done in the bilateral talks and discussions among small groups of key players that are critical for a deal, and this would require give and take, he said.
The Doha talks were launched in late 2001 but have stalled repeatedly, the last time in July 2008, and trade diplomats said 2011 was probably the last chance to reach a deal.
One issue in the talks now is whether it is enough to tweak the negotiating drafts that were drawn up in 2008, or whether major changes are needed for a deal.
The United States and European Union say the 2008 texts have too many gaps, but many developing countries are wary of reopening them for fear of losing what they have gained so far.
Big emerging economies like China, Brazil and India – the main targets of U.S. ambition – say what is already on the table represents a fine balance, and if rich countries want more they must pay with concessions of their own.
If rich countries wanted better access to markets for industrial goods or more liberalization of services in emerging economies, Brazil’s ambassador, Roberto Azevedo told the meeting, they should offer something in agriculture – a reference to high U.S. and EU farm subsidies that developing countries say distort trade.
WTO DIRECTOR GENERAL