The four key players in the World Trade Organization—the US, the European Union, Brazil and India—arrived in Potsdam outside the German capital on Tuesday for critical talks to break deadlock over a global trade deal.
The so-called “G4”, or group of four, will meet “with their backs against the wall,” said a Geneva-based diplomat, with all players mindful that a similar meeting last year got nowhere and ultimately led to negotiations being suspended for all of WTO’s 150 members.
The talks are expected to continue until the weekend.
Germany, which holds the EU presidency until the end of this month, invited EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, US trade representative Susan Schwab, Indian commerce minister Kamal Nath, and Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim to meet at the Cecilienhof palace in Potsdam.
Amorim has warned that this meeting would be “decisive”.
The delegates will certainly feel the weight of history on their shoulders, as it was at Ceciliehof that the Allied leaders Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman met in 1945: the issue then was the division of post-war Europe after the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The purpose of these talks now is to open the world up further to trade.
“It’s not an innocent choice” of venue, the Geneva-based diplomat noted, adding that the EU was seeking to heighten the historical resonance of the meeting. Contemporary concerns will also be evident, with agricultural and anti-globalization campaigners due to protest outside the Cecilienhof.