30th Nov 2022

EU keen to save world trade from 'coma'

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson on Tuesday (25 July) said he intends to launch a programme to save or extend parts of the so-called Doha global trade deal, which fell into "coma" the day before.

"As a starting point, we should extract from the rubble of the negotiation a significant development package," Mr Mandelson said at a press conference in Brussels.

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The commissioner, who compared the Doha round to a patient in coma dependent on life support, also said he would like to see action from US president George W. Bush.

"I hope that president Bush will announce that he will veto any move to extend or roll over the existing US farm bill [on agricultural subsidies]," Mr Mandelson said.

With Mr Bush's trade mandate running out in 2007 - allowing him to negotiate trade deals on behalf of the US - there is little likelihood of the Doha round being revived unless, as Mr Mandelson hopes, Mr Bush is able to extend it.

Mr Mandelson explained the EU would put forward a number of development measures such as the aid for trade package and duty-free and quota-free access for the world's poorest countries.

He indicated that "whilst sustaining the multilateral trading system, the European Union needs to pursue a range of trade policy priorities."

The trade commissioner explained a new EU approach would be proposed in the autumn aimed at gaining access to important markets around the world and reviewing EU trade defence instruments.

Finger pointing

Brussels has blamed Washington for the suspension of the Doha round, which the head of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, on Monday (24 July) saying it was in "dire straits".

"The United States, I regret to say, showed no flexibility at all," Mr Mandelson said, adding that the US has "been asking too much from others in exchange for doing too little themselves."

In response to Mr Mandelson's charge, US trade spokeswoman Susan Schwab said the attempt "to divert blame for the stalemate is false and misleading."

"The United States has sought to conduct this negotiation without resorting to blamesmanship and finger pointing," she said in a statement.

"We are deeply disappointed that the European Union failed to exhibit similar restraint and hope that this will not jeopardize the few chances we have left to save the Doha Round. For our part, we will focus our efforts on working with other WTO members to put the negotiations back on track."

Oxfam calls for mea culpa

London based NGO Oxfam also called for Brussels to accept its role in the five-years of failed negotiations at the WTO.

"The EU must look objectively at the debacle of the negotiations and realise that what it put on the table was far from delivering a genuine development deal for poor countries," said Luis Morago from Oxfam.

"The intransigence shown by both Europe and the United States over the course of these talks is clearly the reason for their failure."

Mr Mandelson assured that Brussels "should reflect on the negotiating see how it can be improved if we are to kick start this Round again – which is what the EU wants to do."

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