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WTO Head Optimistic Trade Talks Will Succeed


The head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, told a Washington audience Friday that the Doha trade liberalization negotiations can be completed by the end of this year.

Sounding like a man determined to succeed, Lamy said with strong U.S. leadership the Doha development round can be successfully concluded this year. The trade liberalization talks, which were launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001, have faltered on several occasions, most recently at a ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December. Experts say that unless significant progress occurs soon, the talks will languish and ultimately fail.

Lamy told his audience at the Institute for International Economics that progress is required in three trade areas, agriculture, industrial products and services. The head of the Geneva-based WTO has been in Washington meeting with Bush administration officials and members of Congress. Lamy said U.S. leadership is essential if the round is to succeed. "And I repeat, as in other (previous) rounds, U.S. leadership is indispensable. I remain of the view that at the end of the day all countries stand to gain from a strengthened multi-lateral trading system, both developing and developed countries," he said.

Before assuming the leadership of the 149 nation WTO last year, Lamy was the European Union trade commissioner.

Lamy said if a trade expansion deal is to be reached, all major trading nations will have to make concessions. Europe and America, he said, will have to reduce their trade distorting agricultural subsidies, and developing countries will have to open their closed markets to more goods and services from rich countries. Lamy said the shape of a deal to finish the Doha round will become apparent once the major trading countries go public with the concessions they are prepared to make.

"It's not surprising that crossing this line (revealing their concessions) is so difficult because it also has an advantage, which negotiators may not see as an advantage, but politicians see as an advantage, which is that it is much more transparent. Your constituencies (then) know much clearer what all this is about."

Lamy is convinced that all nations can benefit from further trade liberalization. He said the agreement of three negotiating groups is essential for a successful outcome. They are the United States, the European Union and key developing countries that are members of the Group of 20, including India, China, Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia.

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