Let’s Do Doha Again…For Real This Time
USTR recommends another WTO meeting next year to jump-start stalled negotiations
WASHINGTON, DC - 12/15/05 - As the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial in Hong Kong limps along, US Trade Representative Rob Portman has said that the trade negotiators attending the meeting should set a date to meet again "soon" to press for movement in long-stalled trade negotiations.
In remarks yesterday to the WTO plenary session, the USTR said that within the next few days the ministers also should set a deadline for eliminating agricultural export subsidies.
He said trade ministers should meet again early in 2006 "to give another push" to resolving longstanding key issues that will not be settled during the Hong Kong meeting, which is scheduled to wrap up on Sunday.
"Although we may not achieve all we had hope for this week, let us set another deadline to keep the pressure on," Portman said. "We should not leave without setting a date early next year to come together again, this time to break the deadlock on the major core issues so our negotiators can complete work by the end of 2006."
Almost since the negotiations - formally called the Doha Development Agenda - were launched in 2001, progress in all core areas have languished, blocked by an impasse over agricultural trade issues.
Some small progress was achieved in July 2004 when the WTO General Council agreed on elimination of all agricultural export subsidies but without setting a deadline. The European Union (EU) accounts for about 90% of all such spending.
Yesterday, Portman told fellow trade ministers that, before they depart Hong Kong, they should set a date for eliminating export subsidies, even though no agreement is in sight for the two other major sets of agricultural issues, reducing domestic support payments to farmers and reducing tariffs.
A US agriculture proposal submitted in October would eliminate export subsidies by 2010 as well as substantially cut tariffs, eliminate quotas and eventually eliminate the most trade-distorting domestic support.
Analysis of a subsequent offer from the EU showed it offered little or no real additional market access. After a flurry of activity, the impasse over agriculture resumed with much criticism of the EU position.
"I believe there remains only one way to break the current deadlock in agriculture," Portman said. "It requires a convergence on reducing tariffs in the relatively protected agricultural sector -- not in one country or another, but globally, worldwide, a framework that we can all agree to."
Later yesterday, Deputy US Trade Representative Peter Allgeier told reporters he still hoped the EU would move during the Hong Kong meeting beyond its position against making further concessions on agricultural tariffs.
"If that is not the case, obviously then we think that it will be important for them to make those changes in the very near future if we are going to be able to complete this round by the end of 2006," he said.
At the plenary session Portman also said that, while meeting in Hong Kong, ministers should also agree on what is called a Swiss formula for reducing tariffs on industrial goods.
A Swiss formula would produce a narrow range of final tariff rates from a wide set of initial tariffs by cutting the highest rates the most; it would also produce a maximum final rate.
In contrast, the earlier Uruguay Round of negotiations produced an average percentage cut, leaving rates in many countries much higher than US rates.
Portman said that at Hong Kong ministers also should set a new deadline for submitting improved offers in services trade.
back, or read the latest Front Page stories:
US Seeks Stronger Ties With Brazil
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/13/06 – Rebounding from the failure to craft a Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, the Bush Administration is aiming at strengthening trade ties with Brazil in an effort to counter China’s fast-growing economic influence in Latin America; China should not only be seen as an export market with 1.3 billion consumers, but also as a nation of 1.3 billion ''new competitors,'' says US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Guittierez.
US Threatens WTO Action Against China
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/10/06 – The White House is threatening to slap China with a World Trade Organization case unless Beijing responds quickly to US concerns over its lack of action on securing intellectual property rights for US products; talks on bringing the WTO case are at a ''very advanced stage,'' according to a high level official in the Office of the US trade Representative.
High Hopes for Central American Trade Pact
WASHINGTON, DC – 06/08/06 – The US -Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) still faces some hurdles, but could become a reality ''very soon,'' according to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick; the issues relating to government procurement, intellectual property rights and agriculture still need to be worked through, says the former US Trade Representative following a session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.