Geneva: World Trade Organization (WTO) mediators will unveil proposals next week that could chart the path to Doha round success or spell the end for the pact that promised to lift millions of people out of poverty.
The negotiations ran aground last year when some countries resisted calls to expose sensitive industries such as rice, dairy, clothing and car parts to more foreign competition. Hopes for a Doha deal took a further hit in June when the European Union, the US, India and Brazil failed to bridge differences over farm subsidies, farm tariffs and industrial goods tariffs.
In their papers, to be released on Monday or Tuesday, the chairmen of WTO’s agriculture and industrial goods talks are expected to propose ranges of cuts to those hotly contested subsidies and tariffs, inside which countries may be able to reach the consensus needed for a deal.
Initial reactions to the papers will be critical to the future of the Doha round, which WTO director-general Pascal Lamy has been pushing to wrap up in 2007 to avoid spilling into US and Indian elections. If any of the WTO’s 150 member states reject the chairs’ texts as the basis from which to negotiate a deal, diplomats say, the Doha talks are likely to be put on ice, possibly for years.
Many governments appear to be struggling to find ways to convince their electorates that a Doha pact would benefit them, said Axel Dreher, assistant professor of economics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. “Who would be the winners from this round? Overall, it’s the poor countries that would win. In the developed countries, there would be redistributions. Consumers overall would win from this deal, and farmers overall would lose,” he added.
Crawford Falconer, New Zealand’s ambassador to WTO who chairs the agriculture talks, issued a preliminary version of his text in April in which he said the US and Europe must move on slashing subsidies and tariffs. His counterpart Don Stephenson, Canada’s ambassador to WTO, has not issued a similar draft on industrial goods, where developing nations are under pressure to open their markets to more competition through tariff cuts. Both chairmen have said they intend to revise their texts at least once after negotiators mull them over.
If they are well received, trade ministers could be called to Geneva in September for another try at concluding the deal that the World Bank says could add $96 billion (Rs3.89 trillion) annually to the global economy. REUTERS