Leaders of the Group of Eight major industrial countries meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia on Sunday, July 16, agreed to set a one month deadline for World Trade Organization (WTO) members to revive stalled global trade negotiations.
"There was an agreement on the deadline we gave to our negotiators and no one opposed that," European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said. "It shows that they (the leaders) are aware of the importance of this trade round".
The text of the G8 agreement called WTO Director General Pascal Lamy to consult with members to reach an agreement on agriculture and industry tariffs "within a month." An attempt to revive the ailing trade round floundered in Geneva earlier in July.
"We call upon him to report to the WTO membership as soon as possible with the aim of facilitating agreement on negotiating modalities on agriculture and industrial tariffs within a month," continued the release.
"We call upon all countries to commit to the concerted leadership and action needed to reach a successful conclusion of the Doha round." A spokesman for Barroso explained that "modalities" meant G8 leaders had ordered their WTO negotiators to reach "broad agreement on key figures" as a way of carrying the trade talks forward.
However, it was far from clear whether the call for negotiations would be embraced by the leaders of Brazil and India, who meet for talks with G8 leaders today, July 17.
Both have been vocal in their insistence that the talks must include more concessions by rich countries to lower trade barriers on farm products produced by poor countries. But the two countries are themselves being pressed by the G8 countries to do more to lower their barriers to imports of manufactured products.
Russian President Vladimir Putin who is hosting the meeting for the first time said that wealthy countries "must remove barriers for the inflow of goods of traditional production, but also stop full-scale subsidizing of their exports on the state level" in direct reference to the import tariffs and agricultural supports that jack up global prices and prevent developing countries from getting a foothold in the global economy.
The WTO Doha round faces a count down since a year from now the special authority the US president has to negotiate trade deals will expire. After that it will be harder to obtain congressional approval, and if the US cannot deliver on whatever its negotiators might agree, other countries will not feel obliged.
Agriculture issues have the European Union and United States in opposite sides. The US has been critical about the extent to which Europe has offered to cut tariffs on farm imports, while the EU has said the US is not doing enough to cut its farm subsidies. Developing countries agree with both these criticisms of rich countries’ farm policies.
Meanwhile, the big emerging economies, especially India and Brazil, are in turn criticized by the US, Europe and others for not being ready to open their markets more to imports of industrial goods
Mercopress – www.mercopress.com
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