World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy said negotiations on a global trade agreement need to be accelerated and completed by June.
“We need to speed up the process so as to grasp the window of opportunity, which closes by the end of June with the expiry of the U.S. trade promotion authority,” Lamy reiterated at a meeting in the Indian capital New Delhi today.
Talks among the WTO’s 150 member governments broke down in July because of disputes over farm subsidies and tariffs. Ministers from the European Union, Brazil, India, Japan, Australia and the U.S. agreed on Jan. 27 to resume the talks, aimed at reaching a deal the World Bank says would be worth at least $96 billion a year.
“Negotiations are taking place at too slow a pace. Time is not on our side and many WTO members are becoming impatient,” Lamy said in New Delhi today. “The multilateral process of negotiations must therefore kick in at full speed.”
Preliminary concessions on areas like agricultural subsidies have to be made before U.S. President George W. Bush’s trade negotiation authority expires at the end of June, Lamy said in Jakarta last month.
India’s Trade Minister Kamal Nath said developed countries have to change farm policies so that talks can progress.
“There cannot be a one-size-fits-all formula. We must ensure that the economies of Asian and African countries remain healthy,” Nath said in New Delhi today. “The developed countries have to show the necessary will to remove the distortions in the international agriculture market so that the negotiations can go forward.”
Negotiators want to complete at least an outline for an accord before the Bush administration’s trade negotiating mandate from Congress expires at the end of June. Without that, other governments can’t be sure American lawmakers won’t alter any deal reached with the administration.
“The U.S. will have to accept more trade-distorting subsidy reduction, the E.U. has to accept more tariff reduction and a number of emerging countries have to accept more than what they have accepted until now in terms of market access,” Lamy told reporters after the conference. “It’s not for me to disclose the precise numbers.”
A global trade accord would reduce the tariffs applied at borders, lower restrictions on foreign companies and accelerate checks on imported goods.
“The objective is to improve the multilateral disciplines and the commitments by all members of the World Trade Organization in such a way that they establish a more level-playing field and provide developing countries with better conditions to enable them to reap the benefits of opening trade,” Lamy said.