Global trade talks need a strong signal from US President-elect Barack Obama to save them from failure, this according to Brazilian authorities. On Thursday, December 11, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim made this comment after meeting with World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy in Geneva.
"Such a move would be justified because a successful Doha round deal at the WTO would offer one solution to the global financial crisis that originated in the United States," said Celso Amorim.
"I think an encouragement from the incoming administration would be a very positive signal and would be probably what we need in this very last stretch," he added.
Calling on Obama to show leadership and not hide behind formalities as the outgoing administration of George W. Bush handles the Doha talks, Amorim said it was up to Washington to show the maximum flexibility to help resolve the crisis.
Leaders of the G20 rich and emerging nations called last month for an outline Doha deal by the end of this year to help counter the financial crisis by warding off protectionism.
Trade ministers came close in July to a deal in the Doha talks, launched in the Qatar capital in late 2001 to free and promote world trade. However the meeting collapsed over differences between the US and India and China over a proposed safeguard to help farmers in poor countries withstand surges in imports.
Despite progress in technical negotiations since then, the safeguard remains a particular stumbling block. So too do proposals to create duty-free zones in industries like chemicals, and the level of trade-distorting US subsidies for cotton.
Lamy is holding intense consultations with ministers from the US and other major trading powers to see if enough progress can be made on these three issues to call ministers to Geneva to seek a breakthrough.
Amorim said that as far as he could judge, Lamy had not yet made up his mind.
WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said Lamy would decide today, December 12, whether to call a ministerial meeting next week, after a further round of calls with the major players.
But Amorim, one of the keenest proponents of a deal because of Brazil's huge food exports, said not to call a meeting would be just as much a failure as to hold one that then collapsed.