A meeting of trade ministers from European Union (EU), Brazil and India, on Wednesday, failed to find common ground to take the deadlocked Doha round of trade talks forward.
“The discussions were exploratory. There was no discussion on numbers,” said one trade negotiator who was part of the discussions, but did not want to be identified.
Though talks resumed in February this year, not much progress has been made despite several rounds of bilateral meetings being held between key players—India, EU, US and Brazil.
The G-3 (India, EU and Brazil), G-4 (G-3 and US) and G-6 (G4, Japan and Australia) meetings were considered important since this was the first time that the trade ministers in the group are sitting together after July 2006.
Now, all attention is on Thursday’s meetings of the G-4 and G-6.
However, earlier in the day, trade ministers sounded an optimistic note, with Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim even stating that ‘differences are slowly narrowing down,” after a meeting with EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson. However, there are still no indications of a deal on the horizon as there are no new numbers (fresh offers of reduction in import duty and trade subsidies) being put on the table.
Mandelson, who held bilateral meetings with the US and Brazil, said, “I am always positive, always on the front foot, always showing flexibility and I’ll do my best to sustain the position on behalf of the EU.”
The US trade representative, Susan Schwab, who also called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, declined to comment.
Commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath told reporters ahead of his meetings with EU and Brazil, “I am confident that all the countries want to move foward towards strengthening a broad multilateral trading system. I am also confident that the context of this round, which is to uplift the economies of developing countries, will be the bedrock of any agreement.”
An official, who is in the know of the developments, said EU and Brazil were keen to push the other countries to agree on a timeline for the negotiations. However, US and India are not willing to be forced.
WTO director general Pascal Lamy had said he was urging member countries to try and adhere to a 30 June timeline.