Doha Round : Davos Forum Gives New Impetus to Stalled Trade Talks
International efforts to rekindle the Doha Round trade talks, stalled since July 2006, are being confirmed. The ministers of 23 World Trade Organisation member countries made a commitment, on 27 January at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland), to resume the talks and to break the stalemate on agriculture. On the snow-covered slopes of the Swiss ski resort, an informal meeting of the key negotiators, among them the EU's Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, gave a political dimension to attempts under way since the start of the year to get the talks back off the ground, but without going into detailed figures. The outcome was welcomed by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, who voiced optimism, saying a new dynamic had been triggered in Davos.
"In spite of the cold outside, we were able to thaw the frozen talks," commented Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath, whose country could play a decisive role in a possible breakthrough. "We have clear signals of commitment," confirmed Lamy, who hopes to see this optimism reflected in figures at the forthcoming expert talks in Geneva. After the failure in summer 2006, the director-general will only convene a ministerial meeting if there is a near certainty of achieving a breakthrough.
It will take more than statements of intent to break the impasse, though. Concessions on agriculture are still needed by the United States and Europe and these failed to materialise in Davos. "We need a new American offer on farm subsidies, a new European Union offer on agricultural duties and a new Indo-Brazilian offer on industrial products and services," summarised Lamy. He added that "a new American proposal is taking shape" and that the negotiations "will not conclude on the bases that overturned the process last July". …