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Widespread lament over collapse of WTO talks

Widespread lament over collapse of WTO talks
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First Published: Wed, Jul 30 2008. 11 27 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Jul 30 2008. 11 27 AM IST
Washington: Governments and business leaders traded barbs over the failure to reach a global trade pact in Geneva on Tuesday, with a leading US business group blaming China and India for insisting on protections for their farmers.
Argentina however blamed wealthy nations for failing to provide enough concrete benefits for developing countries.
Real losers are the world’s poorest nations
The breakdown “is bad news for the world’s businesses, workers, farmers and most importantly the poor,” said the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than three million businesses and organizations.
Chamber president and chief executive Tom Donohue said in a statement that “the real losers” are the world’s poorest countries.
“It’s ironic that this blow to the Doha Round came from two of the chief beneficiaries of worldwide trade. India and China are emerging powers, but with great power comes great responsibility,” Donohue said.
US and India divided on SSM in agriculture
In the talks the United States and India were sharply divided over a proposed special safeguard mechanism (SSM) in the agriculture sector.
India, China and some other developing countries wanted the SSM to kick in at a lower import surge level than had been proposed in a bid to protect their poor farmers. Others wanted it to take effect at a higher rate so as not to hurt exporters.
The US National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) blamed China and India. “Time and again at the Geneva meetings, China and India reiterated how they could not lower their barriers, but insisted we must lower ours,” NAM president John Engler said in a statement.
Negotiations from rich nations seen as inflexible
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana however said that negotiators from rich nations were inflexible. “Several aspects of the draft agreement were not balanced,” Taiana said in a statement.
“On the side of the developed countries there was very little willingness to provide concessions on commercial matters, but plenty of ambition to obtain benefits for themselves,” Taiana said.
“We were all ready to compromise. We are therefore deeply disappointed and ... regret that those who could have gone the extra mile did not go the extra mile. The opportunity to negotiate never came,” she said.
Brazil’s farm and biofuel sectors stand to lose
Pangestu said the proposed SSM was a “very reasonable request” and a “reachable compromise.” Representatives of Brazil’s huge farm and biofuel sectors said they would be especially hurt by the failure to reach an accord.
“This WTO accord was important for Brazil because it would have opened markets in all the countries and would have put (Brazil) on an equal footing” with other nations that already have bilateral trade deals, said the head of the Export Association of Brazil, Jose Augusto de Castro.
Mexico’s finance ministry said negotiators in Geneva failed “to recognize how close talks were to a positive result that would have benefited all the countries of the world, especially those developing nations.”
Canada, disappointed too
Canada, a major food exporter, said it was “disappointed” by the outcome. “Despite the impasse, we will continue to press for new trade opportunities, through bilateral agreements and renewed efforts at the multilateral level,” International Trade Minister Michael Fortier and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a joint statement from Geneva.
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First Published: Wed, Jul 30 2008. 11 27 AM IST