Summit called to save trade talks

London, February 22:

Six of the leading players in the long-running global trade talks are to meet in London next month for what is being billed as a ‘collective striptease’ to unblock deadlocked negotiations through a series of mutual concessions.

With time running out before the end of the April deadline for deals on agricultural and manufacturing tariffs, the two days of talks at the Indian high commission are designed to broker simultaneous compromises to satisfy both rich developed countries and developing nations.

Sources close to the meeting — which will start on March 10 — said that the aim was a deal in which deeper cuts in support for farmers in the EU, the US and Japan would be matched by concessions from India and Brazil on manufactured goods and by China on services.

“We can’t keep blowing off deadlines,” one source said, “The meeting may not result in full agreement but we hope to be in a position where it is possible to close the remaining gaps over the subsequent six to seven weeks. It will be a collective striptease in which everybody says ‘this is what we’ve got’.” The talks will be hosted by India’s trade minister, Kamal Nath, and follow weeks of intense discussions among trade negotiators in Geneva after the inconclusive meeting of the WTO in Hong Kong last December. They will be attended by the EU, the US, Japan, Brazil and Australia.

Attempts to broker a new round of trade liberalisation foundered in Seattle in December 1999 but finally got off the ground in Doha .

Talks have subsequently progressed slowly and are now bogged down in a dispute between the West and leading developing countries. The EU, in particular, has come under pressure to offer better access to its market for lower-cost farm products.

Doubt over meet

GENEVA: WTO director general Pascal Lamy said he doubted the need for a summit proposed by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to spur momentum in trade liberalisation talks. Qu-izzed about Lula’s plan for a summit grouping developing and weal-thy nations, Lamy said he did not believe it w-ould be necessary, arguing that negotiations had reached a stage w-here they are best left to trade ministers and diplomats. — AFP