Against All Hope, Brazil and US Push for Global Trade Agreement This Year

Brazil and the United States still believe it’s possible to salvage global trade liberalization talks and agreed on the urgency of reaching a deal before the end of the year.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab meeting in Brazilian capital Brasí­lia expressed hopes that an agreement could be reached to save the Doha round negotiations of the World Trade Organization, even when last minute nerve breaking talks to rescue them collapsed a week ago in Geneva.

"We believe in a breakthrough, even though we know it will be tough," Schwab said at a joint press conference with Amorim.

Despite the optimism Schwab made clear concerns regarding the future of the Doha round, which was launched in Qatar in 2001. Any possible agreement must be reached by year’s end because as of July first, 2007, the fast track authority granted to the White House by US Congress expires.

"If we do not have a Doha agreement in place by the end of 2006 it is virtually impossible for us to use the trade promotion authority," said Ms Schwab in direct reference to the procedure by which US Congress can only approve or reject trade agreements, but not amend them.

She added that the United States was "running against the clock" and "we’ve already run out of time". However she promised to work for an extension of the trade promotion authority with the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, but said that even if that request is granted "it wouldn’t gain us that much time".

Amorim agreed that it was still possible to rescue the Doha round but was also cautiously optimistic. He said that "if advances are made, they must come in the next five or six months to be able to conclude this round of talks in a reasonable time frame".

Talks were scheduled to conclude this year but collapsed a week ago in Geneva as the six key players, Australia, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and the European Union, were unable to overcome their differences particularly in agriculture.

Brazil and the United States have been at loggerheads during the talks, with Brasí­lia, which heads a group of developing nations known as the G-20 demanding steep cuts in U.S. farm subsidies while Washington wants poorer countries to provide greater market access for manufactured goods and services. The US also is pushing the European Union to further lower agriculture markets tariffs.

Despite their differences Amorim said that "United States and Brazil want an ambitious, balanced negotiation that provides benefits to developing countries and particularly to the most impoverished."

But the Brazilian representative also cautioned that "breakthroughs don’t come out of the blue" and there must be "a strong political determination" to reach a deal and consolidate the advances achieved by the 149 WTO country members over the past five years of negotiations.

Mercopress – www.mercopress.com

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