A two-day ministerial meeting aimed at paving the way for a new round of global trade talks wrapped up in Mexico City Saturday. The trade ministers left some significant questions unanswered.
Participants in the meeting said some progress had been made, but that more work needs to be done on such difficult issues as antidumping, environmental regulations and agricultural subsidies.
Mexican Economy Minister Luis Derbez described the balance of the meeting as successful. He said there had been an ample exchange of ideas and that there had been some movement to close the gaps on issues of contention.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy also expressed satisfaction with the meeting. They said this meeting and others to be held in the coming weeks will help pave the way towards an agreement to start another round of global talks. That is to be the focus in November when ministers from all 142 member nations of the World Trade Organization come together in Doha, Qatar.
But Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran sounded less optimistic in his assessment of the Mexico dialogue. He said participants had gotten "a better understanding of each other." But he said developing nations are still demanding more access to rich-country markets and a reduction in agricultural subsidies, particularly in Europe. The Indian representative said he had seen little done to address a list of 93 concerns his country had put before the World Trade Organization. He said representatives from a dozen developing nations would meet in Geneva this month to further discuss these matters.
Several ministers attending the meeting here in Mexico argued that a new round of global talks is necessary in order to stimulate the sagging world economy. An effort to start a new round at a meeting in Seattle in 1999 failed because of broad disagreements over the agenda and disruptions caused by anti-globalizations street protests.