WTO Flirts with Crisis as Trading Powers Refuse to Compromise

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Byline: JONATHAN FOWLER

GENEVA, July 2 (AFP) -- Trading powers were flirting with a crisis Saturday after tough negotiations at the WTO on a crucial step in global trade talks lurched into the weekend without any side willing to give way.

India's Minister of Commerce, Kamal Nath, admitted late in the night that he was ready to fly home Saturday after the G6 group of influential trading powers failed to make progress at World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva.

"There will be no more G6 meeting," said Nath, a key player in the talks, effectively ruling out more immediate bids to bridge the gaps between the 149 nations over agricultural trade and industrial goods.

"We must recognize that we have not been able to move, that there remain major gaps and that there is crisis," he added.

A compromise among the G6 members is regarded as the key to resolving the near five-year-old deadlock, because their diverse economic interests are at the heart of disputes in the talks on cutting down barriers to trade by the end of the year.

"The green room will decide what the process will be" after the failure, said Nath, referring to an informal gathering on Saturday of 30 representatives of delegations from the 149 WTO members.

WTO chief Pascal Lamy held a strong of closed door meeting with top national officials Friday to try to coax them individually to give ground as developing and rich countries accused each other of trying to hijack the elusive Doha Round of multilateral trade talks.

Lamy had earlier issued a stern warning, saying governments could no longer afford to duck a deal after missing a host of deadlines in recent years.

"If things don't turn around radically in the next hours, we will quite frankly be facing a crisis," he said.

United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab said on Saturday that the WTO's Doha round was at an impasse, although not dead, after two days of ministerial talks failed to produce a breakthrough. "We have clearly reached something of an impasse here. But does that mean the round is dead? No. We have no intention of giving up hope," she told a news conference

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim gave a gloomy assessment of the chances of reaching a deal this weekend on the mathematics for cutting subsidies and tariffs. …