Negotiations for a new global free trade agreement fell through Monday, July 24, after five years of long and exhausting negotiations, admitted officials and diplomats involved in a last ditch effort to save the Doha Round.
The World Trade Organization director general Pascal Lamy urged countries to "examine their position and review their positions", and avoid blaming one another for the suspension.
"We will certainly not conclude the round this year," added the WTO director general addressing the negotiating parties in Geneva.
Negotiations hit an impasse over a deal on agricultural subsidies and tariffs. The US and Europe blamed each other for the failure: Brussels rapped Washington’s inflexibility, while the US said Europe lacked ambition to reach a deal.
"WTO negotiations have been suspended" said Kamal Nath, India’s Trade and Industry minister, and when asked for how long: "It could be months or years".
Mr. Lamy had warned Sunday members of the so called Group of Six, G6, (US, EU, Brazil, Australia, Japan and India representing over 75% of world trade) that he would consider a suspension of the free trade talks and the Doha agenda "if there wasn’t a quick way out to the current stall".
And it so happened Monday, Geneva, 14:00 hours: Doha round talks were suspended.
United States said that "a number of developed and advanced developing countries were looking for ways to be less ambitious, to avoid making ambitious contributions; they seem to favor a light Doha which we don’t sponsor".
EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson argued that the US was not willing to acknowledge the flexibility shown by other parties.
"For each dollar stripped out of their trade-distorting farm subsidies they want to be given a dollar’s worth of market access in developing country markets, which is unacceptable," said Mandelson.
"This is a serious setback, a major setback," Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said of the breakdown in negotiations.
However all G6 representatives pledged they remained committed to the multilateral trade system and achieving a successful end to the Doha Round, although no timetable was given or when talks would revive.
"It’s a great failure. Only time will say if it’s definitive," said Marianne Fischner Boel, EU Agriculture Commissioner.
Brazil’s Celso Amorim said there was always the risk of losing advances achieved during the discussions so far, but "we’re all committed to keep on".
Negotiators had been hoping for a deal this year before the special authority US President George W Bush has to negotiate trade deals expires, making it harder for him to win congressional approval for a treaty
EU Commissioner Mandelson held out little hope saying many of the WTO’s 149 members would have "lost a great deal of faith and confidence" in the process. In the long run, the collapse of the talks would lead to less open markets and leave developing countries worse off, he added.
US Trade representative Susan Schwab insisted the US remained "fully committed to multilateral trading system".
The 2006 crisis is compared to a similar situation in 1990 during the previous global trade discussions under the framework of the Uruguay Round, which were launched in 1986 but could only conclude in 1993.
Mercopress – www.mercopress.com
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