Nusa Dua, Indonesia: Prospects for wrapping up troubled world trade talks have improved, after signs of a new commitment from key players such as the US, a group of major agricultural exporting nations said on Tuesday.
Trade ministers came close in July to a deal on the Doha Round of talks, but the talks collapsed over a dispute between Washington and emerging economies spearheaded by India over proposals to help farmers in poor nations.
The Cairns Group—19 nations accounting for at least 25% of the world’s agricultural exports—said in a communiqué at the end of a meeting in Bali that trade officials from the US, Europe and India had shown fresh resolve to concluding the Doha talks launched in 2001.
Hopeful: World Trade Organization director general Pascal Lamy (left) with India’s commerce minister Anand Sharma in Nusa Dua on Tuesday. Lamy expects to close the world trade deal by 2010. Sonny Tumbelaka / AFP
“These special guests have told us they share the commitment of the Cairns Group to reinvigorate the negotiations, with a view to bringing the Doha Round to conclusion in the shortest possible time,” the communiqué said, adding: “This outcome is within our grasp, and we are determined to make it happen.”
Political conditions for a world trade deal have shown signs of improving, although protectionist sentiment is rising as well because of the global crisis, including dairy export subsidies brought in by Europe and the US this year. US trade representative Ron Kirk met India’s commerce minister Anand Sharma on Monday, with Sharma describing the meeting as “very positive”.
World Trade Organization (WTO) director general Pascal Lamy said the meeting produced fresh momentum for the moribund Doha Round.
“I saw Ron Kirk and Anand Sharma clearly engaging in a process that should lead to the conclusion of the round sometime next year,” Lamy said. “We hadn’t had that signal until now.”
“My own global diagnosis is that we have done 80% of the job, 20% remains, among which is the special safeguard mechanism and the agreement of tariff reductions in some sectors,” Lamy told reporters at the end of the meeting.
“We had not had that clear signal of ‘reset’ until now. What I got from here is that...yes, we should conclude this by 2010,” the WTO chief told reporters.
He said the safeguard mechanism—which allows poorer nations to impose tariffs when faced with cheap imports and helped trigger the collapse of last year’s talks—would be among the technical issues addressed in Geneva in coming months.
“Negotiators must reconvene in Geneva as soon as possible to map out a clear path towards the conclusion of negotiations and to start down that path before the European summer break,” the communique said.
(‘AFP’ contributed to this story.)