Friday June 22, 1:26 AM Reuters
Global trade talks collapse*
By Doug Palmer and Laura MacInnis
POTSDAM, Germany (Reuters) - Talks between four of the world's big trade
powers collapsed on Thursday, throwing the future of global WTO talks on
free commerce into deeper crisis.
The United States and the European Union, representing rich nation
interests, and Brazil and India, for the developing world, were quick to
blame the other side for the collapse of the meeting which had been
scheduled to run until Saturday.
Diplomats and trade officials had warned it would be hard for the full
150-member state World Trade Organisation to meet an end-July target for
a deal, without a preparatory agreement by the so-called G4 group of
But ministers insisted that despite the severe setback, the near
six-year-old WTO negotiations -- seen as a bulwark against creeping
protectionism -- were not yet dead.
"Potsdam, once again, was not very successful," Brazil's Foreign
Minister Celso Amorim told a news conference. "It was useless to
continue the discussion on the basis of the numbers put on the table."
The four were attempting to overcome deep differences over how far to
open up agricultural and industrial markets and cut rich nation farm
"It (the failure) places a very major question mark on the ability of
the wider membership of the WTO to complete this round," EU Trade
Commissioner Peter Mandelson told journalists. "(But) it does not in
itself mean that the negotiations cannot be put back on track," he added.
WHITE HOUSE POINTS AT BRAZIL, INDIA
The White House accused Brazil and India of standing in the way of a
deal that -- it said -- would help smaller countries.
"The president is disappointed that certain countries are blocking an
opportunity to expand trade," spokesman Tony Fratto said. "Large
economies like Brazil and India should not stand in the way of progress
for smaller, poor developing nations -- but that appears to be what
happened in Germany this week."
WTO boss Pascal Lamy has warned that without a breakthrough by August,
the negotiations could be put on hold for several more years or even
Lamy quickly called a meeting of the Doha round's steering group, the
Trade Negotiating Committee, for Friday afternoon in Geneva to underline
that the search for an accord continues.
"I now call on the members of the G4 to contribute to the multilateral
negotiating process, which will continue as of today in Geneva," he said
in a statement.
Amorim and India's Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath were due to
fly to Geneva. U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab was also
considering making the trip, officials said.
Launched in the Qatari capital in late 2001, the round aims to lift
millions out of poverty through more trade. But it has faced problems
from the start, mainly over agriculture, which is a highly sensitive
political issue almost everywhere.
Washington has demanded that any deal that significantly cuts U.S. farm
subsidies must open new export markets around the world in agriculture,
manufacturing and services.
But Brazil and India said Washington was not ready to go far enough to
warrant more concessions on their part in manufacturing goods or in
lowering barriers to imports of U.S. farm goods.
"If the round is to move forward, there will have to be a substantial
attitude change," said Nath.
EU officials told journalists the sort of tariff cuts being offered by
Brazil would not have led to any additional business for European companies.
In a letter to Schwab and Mandelson on Wednesday, top U.S. and European
manufacturers warned they could not support a deal that did little to
open developing countries to more exports.
Hopes had been running high going into the four-power talks, which began
on Tuesday, after a series of meetings between senior officials had
appeared to remove some obstacles.