Doha Round Extended Until WednesdayBy Lisa Schlein
27 July 2008
The Doha Round of world trade talks has been extended until Wednesday in an effort to save the negotiations from collapse. Some European countries have expressed concerns over proposed concessions they believe will harm their farmers. About 30 trade ministers are trying to wrap up a deal aimed at boosting the world economy. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva.
The so-called Doha Development Round has been lurching from one crisis to another during the past seven years. This ministerial level meeting is seen as crucial.
Many analysts believe the round will be dead if a deal does not emerge in the next few days.
WTO Director General French Pascal Lamy gestures prior to an informal session on the third day of ministerial summit in Geneva, 23 Jul 2008Trade ministers are sweating over a proposed settlement, mediated by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy. The compromises range from caps on farm subsidies to limits on special treatment for developing countries.
Several European countries, notably Italy, France and Ireland, are critical of concessions made by European Union Trade Negotiator Peter Mandelson on farm subsidies. They think the cuts are too deep and will harm their farmers.
Mandelson says these fears are misplaced.
"There is nothing that we are negotiating in this deal that would undermine any part of European agriculture," he said. "The beef industry, like others in European farming, have a strong future. I believe that as a result of this rund, they will be equipped and strong to compete effectively in our European market and I believe that they can look forward to that strong future."
Mandelson says the agreements being discussed would lead to more open markets and trade liberalization, and this will benefit both developed and developing countries.
The proposed settlement calls for cutting European farm subsidies by 80 percent and cutting U.S. agricultural supports by 70 percent to $14.5-billion. The compromise proposal also calls for cuts in tariffs on agricultural imports and on industrial goods.
A number of countries, including the United States, Brazil, Australia and India say they welcome some of the agreements on the table and are hopeful a deal that is good for the global economy is possible.
But WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell says if a deal does not emerge, the ministers might take a break from the negotiations.
"To say that members would be prepared to abandon the sort of work that they have put in here, which is intensive, certainly over the course of the last 12 months. It is not in the nature of negotiators to walk away from the kinds of things that they will have constructed. So, I do not know what would happen," said Rockwell. "But, I would not say that all is lost under any circumstances by the end of this week regardless of what happens."
The trade ministers have a lot of work to do during the next few days. They will have to look at the prospects of liberalizing services such as banking and telecommunications. The outcome of those negotiations will have a bearing on the outcome of the farming and industry talks.
By Wednesday, it will be clear whether governments are willing to make the necessary trade offs to agree on a deal that economists say could boost the world economy by $50 billion a year.