Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WTO free trade negotiations threaten to collapse

The Doha round of free trade talks are at a grave threat of collapse after 10 years of negotiations. The talks conducted by the World Trade Organization had a goal of opening up rich nation markets to the poor nations. The differences between the rich and poor in making that happen seem to great to overcome. TheWTO will make one more attempt this week before signaling the end of talks.

From the Guardian, writers Larry Elliott and Heather Stewart give us the details.

After months of stalemate, the World Trade Organisation has set a deadline of Friday for the leading players to cut a deal in the key area of industrial tariffs. Pascal Lamy, the WTO's director general, described the situation as "grave" after seeing no signs of a breakthrough since the start of 2011.

He had said it was crucial for progress to be made by Easter if there was to be any chance of completing the round by the end of this year. In a clear warning about the state of the talks, Lamy said negotiators should "think hard about the consequences of throwing away 10 years of solid multilateral work".

"This is the diplomats in Geneva raising the white flag," said Jeffrey Schott, a fellow of the Peterson Institute thinktank and a former US trade negotiator. At the G20 summit in Seoul last year, world leaders committed themselves to completing the long-running talks, but Schott said "the G20 leaders have dropped the ball on this".

With little evidence that the leading developing nations – China, India and Brazil – are prepared to bow to US and European Union pressure to make deeper cuts in the protection offered to their manufacturers, the mood at the WTO's Geneva HQ was sombre this weekend. Lamy is expected hold a series of informal "green room" discussions on Thursday before calling trade negotiators together on Friday, but few in Geneva are expecting a breakthrough.

Europe's trade commissioner, Karel de Gucht, said "there is no reason to be optimistic at this moment in time" and that it was time to start thinking about a "plan B" should the talks collapse.

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