Tough Doha trade talks ahead

World Trade
Organisation members agree they must push on with difficult talks on a global
trade deal, but November’s U.S. mid-term elections mean they are unlikely to
bear fruit before next year.

The United
States, ultimately the key to any pact, says that what is on the table after 8
years of talks on the Doha round is simply not compelling enough to attract
support back home.

Emerging
economies say they have given enough in the current draft of what is meant to
be a deal promoting development, so the scene is set for some bruising
confrontations in which Washington too will be under pressure to make
concessions.

“We’ve
walked up to the water’s edge… What we haven’t done yet is dive into the
actual give and take of negotiations,” said a senior U.S. official.

The WTO’s
consensus-driven system requires negotiations to move in a carefully
choreographed dance, with proposals shared among ever-widening groups to ensure
that none of the 153 members feels excluded from decision-making.

But the time
has now come for “frank, open and difficult negotiations” rather than
exercises in transparency, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told a briefing.

He was
speaking after trade ministers met in Paris on May 27 to review the state of
the Doha talks and agreed to pursue negotiations in whatever form is needed to
aim for a deal.

In particular,
Kirk wants China, India and Brazil — as the three prime beneficiaries of
globalization and the source of much future growth in the world economy — to
make a bigger contribution to a deal.

Kirk insists
it is not just the United States pushing the big emerging economies. Other rich
countries, and some developing ones, also want a more “ambitious”
deal, he said.

U.S. negotiators also complain that talks so far have
concentrated on agriculture and manufactured goods, with little progress in
services such as insurance and express delivery.

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