Cairns: Ministers responsible for half the world’s trade meet in Australia this week to try to revive global talks some say are on their deathbed.
Trade ministers from 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) economies will come together in Cairns on 5 and 6 July, where they will attempt to resuscitate the so-called Doha round of trade liberalization negotiations.
Talks have stalled over the failure of the US, the European Union (EU), India, Brazil and China to open up agricultural and industrial markets, and end subsidies.
“I think Doha’s dead,” said Manu Bhaskaran, Singapore- based partner for the Centennial Group, a Washington-based consulting company. “It’ll have to be regional, bilateral arrangements for now.”
Two weeks ago, talks between the US, the EU, Brazil and India—collectively known as G4—broke down in Potsdam, Germany, leaving this week’s meeting as one of the last opportunities for top commerce officials to rescue Doha.
Apec ministers will urge the opposing parties to show “the necessary flexibility” and indicate the group’s willingness to mediate between the factions to seal a deal before a year-end deadline, Japan’s Kyodo News had said on 29 June, citing a draft communiqué.
India, Brazil and the EU are not part of Apec, a 21-member group that accounts for 41% of the world’s population and 56% of its GDP. The World Trade Organization (WTO), the EU, India and Brazil are all likely to be represented in Cairns, an Apec official said on condition of anonymity.
The 150-nation WTO has set a 2007 deadline for the Doha round. Ideally, the framework of a deal should be complete by early August.
Developing nations want the EU and the US to scale back agricultural tariffs that protect their farmers. Europe and America are seeking more access to industrial and manufactured goods markets in countries such as India and Brazil.
US agriculture secretary Mike Johanns said both India and Brazil “chose not to negotiate” in Potsdam.
The ambitious and troubled Doha agenda is designed to open market access, add hundreds of billions of dollars in global commerce and lift millions of people out of poverty. It has stalled over a failure to reach deals on rice, poultry, bananas and manufactured goods, among others.