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WTO Chief Says Trade Gaps Narrowing


The head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, says nations are closing the gaps in negotiations aimed at concluding the Doha Development Round of global trade talks. But Lamy says they are moving too slowly to meet a self-imposed deadline for concluding a deal by the end of the year. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from WTO headquarters in Geneva.

Pascal Lamy says he believes a successful outcome to the trade liberalization talks is possible by the end of the year. But the director general of the WTO will not say whether he believes a trade pact is a done deal.

"I am never optimistic or pessimistic," said Pascal Lamy. "These are two specific names of diseases, which the WTO DG cannot afford to contract in any circumstances. So, I take every morning a dose of vaccine both against optimism and pessimism."

Lamy says he believes trading nations are beginning to narrow the gaps in their negotiating positions. But he says it "remains to be seen" whether emerging economies, such as Brazil and India, are going to permit any real opening of their industrial markets, in exchange for the significant cuts in farm subsidies and tariffs they are demanding from the United States and the European Union and other rich nations.

"Are EU and U.S. converging on their agenda? Yes, they are," he said. "The problem is whether they are doing this fast enough to meet the sort of time constraints, which we have. And, it is not only about farm subsidies, it is about market access and tariffs. The reason why they have difficulties in converging is because of these two elements. It is not only about farm subsidies. It is also about market access."

Agreement on these controversial issues will have to be reached before an accord can be finalized.

Lamy also says that persuading a skeptical U.S. Congress that a final deal makes sense for Americans is crucial to the success of the talks, and here time is running out. June 30 is the expiration date for President George Bush's authority to send trade deals to Congress for a simple yes-or-no vote without amendments.

"We need trade permission authority to conclude the Round, undoubtedly yes," noted Pascal Lamy. "There is no way you can conclude a trade agreement without trade permission authority which at the end of the day is what Congress accepts to waive of its right of amendment on legislation because we all know that packages which result for conclusion in a Round of the type we are having can only be adopted by a yes or no."

WTO Chief Lamy says he warned governments if they do not compromise soon, they will be forced to confront the unpleasant reality of failure.

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