Brazil Convenes US and EU in Effort to Rescue WTO Talks

Brazil will be hosting this weekend a high level meeting in an attempt to rescue World Trade Organization negotiations with the participation of the G-20 group of emerging countries and negotiators from the leading powers, Europe, United States and Japan.

"This is a first step" to relaunch the Doha Round negotiations which were suspended last July, said Roberto Azevedo, head of the Economics Department from the Brazilian Foreign Affairs ministry, adding that "we must send a clear signal that we’re relaunching the negotiations round as soon as possible".

The weekend event has significantly increased its rating following the announcement than next Sunday US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, European Union Trade Commissar Peter Mandelson and Japan’s Agriculture minister Shoichi Naklagawa, plus Pascal Lamy, head of WTO, will be landing in Rio do Janeiro.

The Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry said Brasí­lia convened the ministerial meeting to show the willingness of developing countries to retake negotiations and representatives from the G-20 23 members will be present, plus the Less Developed Countries Group; the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Association; G-33 and the WTO African group.

Emerging countries are the great losers of the stalling of WTO talks since the heart of the debate is the access of their more competitive farm produce to the rich markets of Europe and United States. In exchange the EU and the US are demanding a greater access for their manufactured goods and service industries.

According to the schedule, emerging countries will be meeting Saturday and on Sunday will receive representatives from the EU, US and Japan in separate appointments. However Azevedo pointed out that this first step must be interpreted as a meeting for "reflection" and not "decision making or even a negotiations session," which means in good diplomatic jargon that no new proposals are expected but rather a commitment to resume the stalled talks.

Emerging countries are expected to insist on the resumption of negotiations with "no back steps", which means no review of what has been achieved so far. Another sensitive issue according to trade analysts is that all negotiators are well aware that significant stumbling blocks lie ahead: midterm Congressional elections in the US and that Congress effectively extends the White House the special negotiating powers, which expire in less than twelve months time.

When negotiations broke down, India, Brazil and leaders from the G-20 and the European Union blamed the United States. Nevertheless and in spite of the collapse of talks, "the United States seems committed to ambitious goals in agriculture," said Mr. Azevedo, and "we’re hoping this proclaimed intention becomes something effective and the US farm subsidies begin to fall."

"Evidence of creativity and unification of positions" will signal if the talks really take off or remain at their stalled confrontation, admitted Brazilian diplomatic sources.

The G-20 born in 2003 and with 23 members includes: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Philippines, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Thailand, Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela y Zimbabwe.

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