The top U.S. trade negotiator, Robert Zoellick, Tuesday accused Japan of taking an unhelpful and damaging approach to next week's World Trade Organization meeting in Qatar. Mr. Zoellick's criticism came as he outlined the Bush administration's strategy for launching a new round of trade liberalization negotiations.
Mr. Zoellick said there is policy paralysis in Japan. He said Tokyo is refusing to consider further liberalization of its protected domestic market. It was the Bush administration's strongest public rebuke of America's closest Asian ally and the world's second largest economy. Mr. Zoellick said he was extremely disappointed at Japan's unhelpful approach to the Qatar trade meeting, which the Americans hope will launch a new round of talks to open world trade.
The U.S. trade official said he is not sure that the meeting of the 142 World Trade Organization members will agree to launch a new trade round. He said extending free trade rules to agriculture and ending subsidies are critical to the future of the trade talks. Mr. Zoellick spoke at a meeting organized by the New York Council on Foreign Relations.
WTO tried to start the global trade negotiations in Seattle two years ago, but the meeting ended with anti-globalization protests, discord between the Americans and Europeans, and failure to launch a new trade round. Mr. Zoellick said the WTO cannot afford a second such failure. He said the United States will pursue bilateral measures to expand trade if there is failure in Qatar.
Trade experts say prospects for Qatar are better than they were in Seattle. The Americans and the European Union have played down their differences and agreed to a broad draft agenda developed by Hong Kong's top trade official. Developing countries also seem more receptive to trade talks than they were two years ago.
In his remarks, Mr. Zoellick said the September 11 terror attacks on America underscore the need for further openness, tolerance, peaceful exchange, opportunity, inclusiveness and integration the values rejected by the terrorists.
The WTO talks in Qatar will be the first major international meeting since September 11. WTO rejected suggestions to move the meeting out of the Middle East, but many countries trimmed their delegations out of security concerns. The WTO meeting begins November 9 and continues until November 13.