New round of talks begin on global trade deal deadlock

Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 07:00 Hrs
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Potsdam (Germany): The United States, European Union, Brazil and India gathered near Berlin Tuesday for what some see as a make-or-break meeting to broker a global trade deal.

The so-called G4 is looking for ways to revive the Doha round of trade negotiations so that agreement on trade liberalisation can be reached in time for an end-of-2007 deadline.

The Doha round was launched by the World Trade Organization six years ago but has been on ice since last summer after the US and the EU failed to overcome differences over farm trade liberalization.

Disagreements with India and Brazil over high industrial tariffs also soured the negotiations, which are mainly meant to provide an economic boost for developing nations.

The talks are being held behind closed doors at a hotel in Potsdam, 25 km southwest of the German capital, and are expected to continue until the weekend.

Taking part are Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel from the EU, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

Mandelson said the meeting would be instrumental in deciding whether the Doha round can be brought to a conclusion.

"Pressure is growing on all sides," said German Economics Minister Michael Glos, who pointed out that the EU was holding parallel talks on free trade agreements with India and South Korea as a precaution against a possible failure of the Doha round.

An agreement among the G4 members on concessions needed to reduce barriers to trade in agriculture and industrial goods is seen as vital to the success of the Doha round.

The talks, launched in the capital of Qatar in November 2001, were originally due to have been completed in 2004. Negotiators are hoping for progress before US President George W. Bush's "fast-track" authority to negotiate trade deals expires at the end of June.

Non-governmental organisations have called on the G4 to produce real benefits for developing countries or to halt the Doha round altogether. Oxfam said the world's less-well-off nations need fairer trade rules.

The EU wants the US to slash subsidies to American farmers because of the distortion this causes to world trade in agriculture goods. Washington in turn is demanding a cut in high European farm tariffs.

Both Brussels and Washington are pressing Brazil and India to open up their markets to foreign services and manufactured goods by reducing tariffs.
Source: IANS
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