Canberra: Brazil and Australia have backed an urgent resumption of stalled world trade talks before the US presidential election and said on Wednesday they hoped a breakthrough could still be reached.
The so-called Doha Round of negotiations to slash trade barriers and farm subsidies collapsed late last month after the US and India failed to agree on a proposal to help poor farmers deal with large-scale food imports.
US trade representative Susan Schwab has since proposed a meeting of senior trade officials in September to see if it is still possible to reach a global deal to free up world trade.
Brazil’s foreign minister Celso Amorim. Photograph: AP
“I’m still hopeful that we can still make an effort, but it has to be very fast,” Brazil’s foreign minister Celso Amorim told reporters in Canberra after talks with Australian counterpart Stephen Smith.
A joint statement from Amorim and Australia’s trade minister Simon Crean said both countries would work to revive the talks before the US presidential election in November.
“Based on past experience, there are two possibilities. We either do it now, in September, or we will have to wait for a long time,” Amorim said.
The Doha Round of talks began in the Qatari capital almost seven years ago.
Brazil and Australia were among the seven key nations involved in the last World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, and both are members of the so-called Cairns Group of agricultural exporting nations that want Europe and the US to lower farm subsidies.
Brazil has also taken WTO action against the US over US subsidies to cotton farmers, with Amorim on Wednesday saying his country would be seeking “billions” in damages.
“We are still in the process of making our precise calculations to ask the (WTO) arbitration panel. But it is certainly very high, because the harm the subsidies cause is very big. It is something certainly in the area of billions,” he said.
He said the cotton subsidies harmed many small, poor African countries and should be eliminated.