Despite attempts, on 25 September 2007, by world leaders to signal that a long-awaited global trade deal could soon be attainable, the Doha Round trade talks seem no closer to progressing past years of deadlock and discord. The latest attempt at reaching an agreement received strong words of support from Brazil’s President Lula, US President Bush and Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath – leaders of countries that have a pivotal role to play in the WTO negotiations. However, the talks, which commenced in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, have become entangled in issues that frequently set rich nations against poor ones.
WTO Director General Pascal Lamy has stressed on several occasions that a deal can be achieved if:
(i) the US agrees to cut its farm subsidies;
(ii) the EU commits to provide greater market access for agricultural goods by cutting tariffs, and
(iii) developing countries, including India and Brazil, open up their markets to foreign goods.
However, the concern is not only about the slow pace of the latest series of talks but also the fact that WTO Members continue to present new proposals rather than concentrating on narrowing their differences.
There is a pervasive awareness that, at least until a new US President takes office in January 2009, any progress in trade talks will be limited, and, in particular, that the expiry at the end of June of “Trade Promotion Authority” (TPA), which allowed the US President to submit trade pacts to Congress without risk of amendment, has diminished many WTO Members’ enthusiasm for the talks. This is because many countries are less likely to offer concessions if they know there is a chance Congress will want to amend agreements negotiated by the US Administration. Success in the Doha trade negotiations may therefore have to wait until there is a new US President, who would give renewed impetus to their conclusion.