WTO TRADE TALKS: Eye on developing states’ needs

Geneva, November 9:

Ministers from the world’s top commercial powers were focusing on the needs of developing countries today, amid dampened expectations for a far-reaching deal next month on liberalising world trade.

While some progress has been made in a hectic schedule of last-ditch talks around Europe, top officials have conceded there is too little time to bridge their differences before a December meeting and a second global trade summit might have to be called for early next year.

“There is a clear preference by the great majority to adjust expectations,” EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said yesterday. Lingering disagreements over farm trade and market access for manufactured goods have held up World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks ahead of the Hong Kong meeting, which aims to resolve many of the issues that have been blocking the Doha round of trade talks — named for the Qatari capital where it was launched in 2001. The WTO members might have to meet again early next year because ministers look unlikely to make the progress they had hoped for, said Indian commerce minister Kamal Nath. Ministers are still hoping to avoid the kind of crushing disaster they faced at the last meeting.

‘EU lacks political will’


The EU won’t cut agricultural tariffs to free up world trade because it lacks the political will to take on wealthy farmers, an Australian trade negotiator said. Geoff Raby, deputy secretary of the department of foreign affairs and trade, warned of an acrimonious meeting similar to a ‘train smash’ in Hong Kong to try to reach a consensus on a new trade pact. “Such a confrontatio-nal summit could actually spark progress by prompting a shift of political will.” — AP