Brazil’s Lula Holds G20 Summit to Revive Moribund WTO Talks

The G20 group of developing nations will attempt to help revive the World Trade Organization talks for a global trade treaty at a meeting next month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Wednesday.

Amorim announced the G-20 meeting four days after he met with U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab in Rio. Both said the WTO talks could be saved if trade ministers hold intensive meetings in coming weeks and months.

Speaking to Brazilian lawmakers, Amorim said regional and bilateral trade deals won’t work as a substitute to a deal involving the 149-nation WTO.

"There isn’t any alternative to the WTO," he said. "If the WTO doesn’t work out, the damage will be severe, not only for Brazil, but for everyone, and would serve as a signal to the world of the breakdown of the multilateral system."

WTO negotiations collapsed earlier this month in Geneva over disagreements on farm subsidies in rich nations and market access in developing countries. The 21-member nations of the G-20 have about 60 percent of the world’s population and are responsible for about 21 percent of the planet’s agricultural exports.

G20 is fighting to lower, or even eliminate, trade barriers from developed countries in order to allow free trade between nations of different levels of prosperity.

Negotiations were hung up over the refusal by the United States to lower its subsidies to domestic agriculture. The European Union also contributed to a halt in the negotiation process when it offered cuts on subsidies which were far below G20’s expectations.

Amorim also warned that a complete failure of the Doha round of trade talks, started in the capital of Qatar five years ago, could generate trade protectionism worldwide and lead to increased trade retaliation by nations.

Trade ministers from the G20 set a tentative schedule for the new meetings to be held September 9-10. Then heads of state from India and South Africa will travel to Brazil’s capital, Brasí­lia, for a September 13 summit, hosted by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, on reviving a global treaty.

Their talks will come just a week before another international meeting of top officials in Australia billed by that country’s trade minister as the last hope of salvaging WTO global trade liberalization talks.

The United States and WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy have accepted invitations to attend the September 20-22 conference in Australia of trade minister from the 18 farm exporting countries that compose the Cairns Group, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said.

The G20 was formed in 2003 with Brazil as one of its leading member nations. The other members are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, the Philippines, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, South Africa, Thailand, Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The Cairns Group _ which accounts for more than a quarter of the world’s agricultural exports _ comprises Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uruguay

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