WTO, US bid to revive Doha Round

Washington, August 23:

World Trade Organisation (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy and US trade negotiator Susan Schwab held talks here yesterday in an effort to revive the Doha Round of negotiations.

Lamy’s visit here comes after his trip to India last week as he tries to broker compromise after Geneva talks ended last month over an impasse on agricultural protection.

The Indian government told the WTO director general it would return to global trade talks if the US signals it believes the deadlock can be broken.

Schwab said she and Lamy had “covered a fair amount of substance and process” in talks over a private dinner late on Thursday and for about two and a half hours this morning adding that she had ‘encouraged’ the WTO chief “to convene senior officials sooner rather than later” in Geneva, mentioning a meeting in September.

World Bank president Robert Zoellick this week outlined

suggestions to break the deadlock over the proposed agricultural safeguard that would

protect farmers from a flood of imports.

Schwab, in an interview in Inside US Trade published on the eve of her meeting with Lamy, said the US supports holding talks with senior officials from a small number of countries in September to explore the possibility of restarting the Doha Round.

“We need to come to the table in September at the senior official level to test the seriousness of going forward, to bring forward new ideas to overcome some of the problems that we encountered in July that we were not able to overcome at that time, and quite frankly to stop the deterioration and the erosion of what was on the table in July,” Schwab was quoted as saying.

In New Delhi last week, Lamy said he was leaving with a sense of India’s ‘political will’ to resume talks and he would conduct the ‘same exercise’ in Washington to gauge the political mood.

“I will play the role of a midwife if the negotiating parties want delivery of the baby,” he said.

The Doha Round, launched in 2001 in the Qatari capital, has repeatedly missed deadlines set for its conclusion.

WB stance:

WASHINGTON: WB president Robert B Zoellick wants the US, India, and China to work with WTO director general Pascal Lamy for a compromise on the Doha round. . Brazil, a major agricultural exporter and home to many poor farmers, can help, he said. Indonesia and Australia also could contribute.

“As the dust settles from the breakdown of WTO negotiations in Geneva, some parties are recognising that there was a good package of results left on the table,” Zoellick said. “It would be a mistake for the world economy and harmful for developing countries not to retrieve it.” He said president Lula da Silva of Brazil was right in urging not to let the WTO negotiations fail because of differences over a special safeguard for agriculture. “Given the high food prices around the world and the need for poor people to lower their cost of food, it just does not make sense for the Doha negotiations to founder upon this barrier,” he said. — HNS.