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No Breakthrough in Global Trade Talks


A ministerial summit at the World Trade Organization has failed to make a breakthrough in deadlocked global free trade negotiations. The so-called Doha Development Round, which is supposed to lift millions of people out of poverty, remains in crisis.

More than 50 trade ministers are packing to go home, without a deal and with little prospect of one soon.

Director-General of the World Trade Organization Pascal Lamy said governments were unwilling to make the necessary concessions on three key issues - agricultural subsidies, agricultural tariffs and industrial tariffs. "There has been no progress," he said. "And, therefore, we are in a crisis, and, I think we have to be lucid in admitting it."

However, Lamy said he believes the differences can be overcome. "It is a crisis, but the sense is that it remains doable," he said.

Lamy says the organization's 149 member governments know that time is running out for them to submit their legally binding pledges for lowering duties and subsidies. These must be presented by July 31. Otherwise, he warns, it will be too late to successfully conclude the Doha Development Round by the end of the year.

In the next few weeks, Lamy says, he will be shuttling to different capitals to get commitments from governments to lower farm subsidies and open their markets to goods.

The European Union and United States accuse each other of not going far enough in reducing subsidies. Developing countries are balking at lowering their customs tariffs on consumer and industrial goods.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said Washington is disappointed at the outcome. She says the United States has made a good offer on cutting domestic subsidies and stands by it. "Just last October, the United States took a risk that is associated with leadership by putting on the table a major agricultural offer, expecting that it would be matched by similar bold moves by others. Regrettably, that has not happened yet," she said.

Nevertheless, she said, the United States remains committed and more determined than ever to stay focused on achieving the promise of Doha.

The World Bank says a trade agreement would be worth at least $95 billion to the global economy.

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