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Major Agricultural Countries Agree to Restart Doha Round Trade Talks

  • Katie Hamann

Major agriculture exporting nations have agreed to revive negotiations for the Doha Development Round at a meeting in Indonesia. The commitment to finalize a framework for the eventual elimination of export subsidies and import tariffs has been praised as a breakthrough by member countries.

For several years World Trade Organization members states have struggled to overcome their differences during negotiations for the Doha Development Round, a pact that would see rich nations sacrifice their agricultural subsidies and import tariffs in exchange for more access to markets in developing nations.

Negotiations on the agreement collapsed in July last year after India and the United States clashed over the capacity of poor nations to raise tariffs and protect vulnerable industries when agricultural imports surged.

The 19-member Cairns Group, which accounts for 25 percent of the world's agricultural trade, met Tuesday on the Indonesian island of Bali. Representatives from India, the United States and other WTO states reunited; committing to return, once again, to the negotiating table.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Bali meeting, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said India and the United States "gave a clear signal that they want to get things up." Lamy said he is hopeful the round could be concluded some time in 2010.

But just how the differences between developed and developing nations will be overcome was not on the agenda. Indonesian Director General of International Trade Gusmardi Bustami says that will be for later meetings in Geneva.

"In Bali we are all showing flexibility and we should focus on discussion in Geneva. We are not going into detail there, but we are just discussing where we are now and what we are going to do next and so on and so on. So we are not discussing issue by issue," he said.

Some member states expressed concern at the recent EU and U.S. decision to reintroduce dairy export subsidies. They warned that countries should do their utmost to avoid protectionist policies in response to the global financial crisis.

The Doha Development Round began in Qatar in 2001 with the goal of scrapping trade barriers and subsidies, particularly in agriculture, by 2013. Talks will resume when WTO members meet in Geneva later this year.