Leaders from 21 Pacific Rim economies will push for the current round of global trade talks to enter their final phase by the end of the year, according to a draft statement prepared for their annual summit.
Achieving progress in the stalled negotiations has “never been more urgent,” said the statement, which leaders gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum are expected to endorse during their 8-9 September summit in Sydney. A copy of the document was seen on Monday by Associated Press.
The leaders will call for “ambitious” results on resolving differences over cutting agricultural subsidies and industrial tariffs—the key areas of dispute that have stalled the so-called Doha round of global trade talks amid bickering between rich and poor nations.
“We insist that consensus will only be possible on the basis of an ambitious balanced result that delivers substantial real market access for agricultural and industrial goods and for services, as well as real reductions in trade distorting agricultural subsidies,” the draft statement said.
Trade negotiators were scheduled to meet in Geneva later on Monday to discuss two new proposals to bridge differences on those matters among the World Trade Organization’s 151 members.
India and Brazil want the US and the European Union (EU) to make greater cuts in farm subsidies, while the US and the EU insist that developing nations make bigger reductions in tariffs on industrial goods.
The Doha round, begun in 2001, aims to add billions of dollars to the world economy and help poorer countries develop through new trade flows.
The Apec leaders, who include US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao, will back the Doha round as the best way to make the global trade system more fair, according to the draft statement.
It said the leaders will endorse the view that “there has never been a more urgent need to make progress” on the global trade talks.
“We pledge to push hard for the progress necessary to ensure the Doha round negotiations enter their final phase this year,” it said.
David Spencer, who is Australia’s ambassador to Apec and chaired the senior officials’ meetings in Sydney, said there was unanimous support among all Apec members about the importance of the Doha negotiations.
“We all realize that the stakes are high. Time is running out,” he said. “Negotiations will begin later this (Monday) afternoon Australian time in Geneva. And for the next few weeks, it is critical that we make some progress in an effort to move to the final stages of these negotiations.”
Senior Apec officials concluded their talks on the draft statement on Sunday, and it will be handed to the forum’s leaders, a South-East Asian official involved in the talks said on condition of anonymity.
Trade and economic ministers from the 21 Apec economies will also study the declaration, and possibly make revisions.