Geneva: Even as India praised the shift in US stance, high-stakes brinkmanship took hold on Day 3 of the crucial World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on Wednesday amid warnings about the consequences of failure and pleas for progress from key figures.
Advanced and developing countries have slipped into a familiar pattern of demanding concessions from each other, with the success of this week’s talks hinging on whether they can make compromises to narrow their differences.
The head of WTO, Pascal Lamy, conceded here on Wednesday, that progress had been modest so far, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown reminded everyone that the talks were at “the eleventh hour.” Union commerce minister Kamal Nath offered observers some cause for optimism by praising US attempts to break the deadlock, but he was quick to add that more was required. “The first thing we must appreciate is that the US is moving,” he said.
“Up to now there was no movement. The fact that a movement has started is a good sign.”
The European Union (EU) and the US have both made opening gambits with offers to reduce trade-distorting assistance to their farmers and are now calling for steps by developing nations to open their markets for industrial products.
Nath did not indicate if he would give ground on industrial products, but said that he would make a “good offer on services”—the final component of the talks.
The WTO has convened a meeting of about 30 leading trade negotiators this week with the aim of mapping out a deal to conclude the long-delayed Doha Round of global trade talks. The Doha Round began seven years ago with the aim of helping poor countries, but it has been delayed by disputes between developed and developing nations over subsidies and tariffs for farm and industrial products.
The brinkmanship and tit-for-tat demands for new offers between advanced and developing countries fit a pattern that has seen several previous meetings since 2001 collapse without a deal.
“Progress has been modest until now,” Lamy conceded in comments to the organization’s 153 members, his spokesman Keith Rockwell said on Wednesday.
But, Rockwell suggested there had been an “intensification” of talks during and since a ministerial meeting late on Tuesday. In London, Prime Minister Brown warned that the talks were at “the eleventh hour” and at “a critical moment.”
“If we do not succeed in the next few days, then it is very difficult to imagine people returning quickly to the negotiating table to secure the outcome that is needed,” he said.
The US on Tuesday offered to cut its official aid ceiling for its farmers to $15 billion (Rs63,450 crore) a year, $2 billion more than a previous offer, in a bid to spur movement at the WTO talks.