4th Apr 2020

Last ditch meeting attempts to avert WTO trade fiasco

Trade ministers from major world economies have gathered in Geneva in a final attempt to save WTO talks on world trade liberalisation. No breakthrough was reported on the first day of negotiations on Sunday (23 July), with talks set to continue on Monday.

The world's six major trading powers - Australia, Brazil, the EU, India, Japan and the US, also known as the G6 – account for some three quarters of world trade.

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"There was no movement at all on domestic support [of agriculture]. We will meet again tomorrow to see if things have changed overnight, whether new ideas have popped up," EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said, according to Reuters.

The two-day meeting in Geneva is the latest in a long line of last-ditch attempts to save the so-called Doha round of WTO [World Trade Organisation] talks, which has been on the negotiating table for the last five years.

Negotiators and trade experts warn that if a deal is not reached this summer, Doha will fail altogether.

A possible deal would still have to undergo six months of detailed work, while special US presidential powers to negotiate on trade will expire in 2007.

Previous meetings aimed at moving on the Doha agenda have been delayed by a key dispute between developing nations and the US and EU.

Developing nations want the EU and US to lower farming subsidies and tariffs, while Washington and Brussels want greater access to the manufactured goods markets of emerging countries.

To save the talks, the US must reduce the subsidies Washington pays to its farmers, while the EU must lower the duties on agriculture imports and the G-20 group of developing countries, led by Brazil and India, must open up access to its industrial markets, according to head of the WTO Pascal Lamy.

The EU has said it will only lower tariffs on agriculture imports once the US cuts its farm support.

However, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said last week that "the US was the only major player to refuse to consider moving on this basis and declined to signal any room for further movement."

At the beginning of this month, a WTO ministerial meeting failed prompting Mr Lamy to say that the Doha trade negotiation is in a crisis.

The WTO's Doha round started in the capital of Qatar in 2001.

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