Trade Talks Falter in Geneva, but U.S. Remains Committed
Global trade talks came to a halt in Geneva today as trade ministers from six nations failed to make progress on the key issues of market access and domestic subsidies. Although disappointed that the talks ended without an agreement, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said, "The United States remains determined to work with other members to see the completion of an ambitious Doha agreement - one that opens markets for agricultural and manufactured goods, as well as services."
Leaders of the Group of 8 industrial nations left a summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, last week with a unified goal to find solutions to the stalled World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Development Agenda negotiations. As a result, trade ministers from Australia, Brazil, the European Union (EU), India, Japan and the United States met in Geneva yesterday and today with hopes of hammering out a compromise that would salvage the talks.
"We are disappointed that the negotiations have stalled again," said Clay Hough, IDFA senior vice president and general counsel. "The U.S. dairy industry has plenty to gain from a Doha agreement, and we fully support the U.S. government position requiring increased market access. We therefore encourage the trade ministers to continue working to break this impasse."
The trade negotiators met for two days, attempting to reach agreement on agricultural and industrial tariffs and domestic subsidies. Although there are 149 WTO members, these six countries are key participants, and their agreement is central to the success of the negotiations.
In particular, the United States had been under pressure by other WTO members to reduce its farm subsidies.
"Following the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg, the U.S. delegation went home and consulted intensely with Congress and our private sector," Schwab said. "We dug deep to find additional flexibilities, and we came to Geneva prepared to further address concerns that our trading partners have raised, in particular effective cuts in domestic support and a willingness to accept lesser tariff cuts."
Schwab had meetings last week with members of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee in executive session. She also met with members of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
During the G-8 summit meeting last week, the other industrial nations expressed their willingness to show flexibility in the Doha talks, "but unfortunately the promises of flexibility and market access coming from St. Petersburg did not materialize in Geneva," Schwab said.
For now, the round has been suspended indefinitely, but there's still a chance that negotiations will resume in the future.
"We will continue to closely monitor the situation and urge all interested parties to restart the round," Hough said. "However, we are also calling on Congress to extend the Trade Promotion Authority to provide ample time to conclude the round and other important trade negotiations that remain unfinished."
Trade Promotion Authority, which authorizes the president to send free-trade legislation to Congress for an up-or-down vote, is set to expire next July. Most trade experts believe that if a deal cannot be completed in the next few months, there will not be time to complete an overall agreement and gain approval in the United States.
For more information on the Doha Development Agenda, click here, or contact Helen Medina, IDFA manager of international affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-220-3507.
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Posted July 24, 2006