Ministers from six key world economies, including Brazil and the United States, failed to clinch a world trade liberalization deal Thursday, March 12, but, after a meeting in New Delhi, have proposed a new deadline to complete the negotiations. With six trade ministers from major economic powers in one room there was anticipation of a breakthrough for stalled talks on liberalizing global commerce.
When they emerged late Thursday to face reporters in a New Delhi hotel, Brazil's foreign minister Celso Amorim announced no breakthrough, but some progress.
"No breakthrough reached in New Delhi – that's probably the headline tomorrow," he said. "But I do believe that we had, well, if not exactly a breakthrough, a big step ahead in terms of process."
The ministers from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States announced that they agreed to try by the end of the year to conclude the so-called Doha round of 150-member World Trade Organization talks.
U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab says top trade officials now have a sense of urgency that hopefully can be translated into action.
"Unfortunately the history of the Doha Round up to this point has been the setting of artificial deadlines and the failure to meet those deadlines," she said.
The United States has resisted making deeper cuts to subsidies for American farmers. That has prompted the Europeans to hold firm on protecting their farmers.
On the other hand, the U.S. and European Union want countries such as Brazil and India to further open their booming domestic markets to manufactured goods and agricultural imports.
Australia's trade minister, Warren Truss, says Washington and Brussels should not be expected to make all the concessions.
"We can't expect the Americans or the Europeans to do it all. India will have to do something. Australia will have to do something," said Truss. "The world will have to develop a spirit of compromise to achieve something that is very important."
In another sign of the distance still to be traveled, India's commerce and industries minister Kamal Nath told reporters his country will not compromise the interests of millions of its subsistence farmers.
U.S. President Bush has special powers to negotiate a trade deal. But those so-called "fast track" powers expire June 30 unless Congress extends them.
Some negotiators say an international agreement is needed before then in order to encourage U.S. lawmakers to extend the president's authority, which would allow him to present the Congress with a trade pact for a straight up or down vote.