EU offers plan to rescue Doha talks
Geneva, April 30, 2011
The European Union has presented world trade negotiators with a last-minute plan to rescue stalled free trade talks, saying there were still avenues of negotiation to explore after 10 years of trying.
In a presentation to a key meeting of World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries, the plan aims to find some middle ground between the US and major emerging economies, especially China, on the key sticking point of the discussions - tariffs on industrial goods.
'Our view has always been that not all options and avenues, in this market access area had been explored,' Jean-Luc Demarty, European Commission director-general for trade of the Doha round talks, was quoted as saying in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
'This is why we felt we should formulate ideas to stimulate further engagement,' he said in a statement released as the Geneva meeting of the 153-member WTO's Trade Negotiations Committee began.
'We have sought over the last few days and hours to engage with a large number of members... and would like to report briefly on this today in a proper multilateral setting, so as to ensure full transparency towards all members,' he said. 'To summarise the objective of our initiative: We tried to demonstrate that it is technically and realistically possible to bridge the gaps if the political will is there.'
WTO director-general Pascal Lamy, who has staked his reputation on getting a deal done this year, begged delegates in the closed-door meeting not to return to the 'law of the jungle'.
The EU's plan focuses on tariffs for chemicals, machinery and electronics and seeks an approach that is tailored for different products. The US said it would be studying the EU proposal over coming days.
'The key question to us is whether the EU proposal can catalyse new give and take between the members because that's what's lacking right now,' US ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke said.
'That's a question all of the key members can answer pretty quickly. We can't know the outcomes might be but we can certainly know very quickly whether or not it can catalyse negotiations' he said.
The Doha talks are the disarmament negotiations of the commercial world - aiming to keep at bay the self-defeating spiral of tariffs, subsidies and quotas that can choke trade and, economists argue, global prosperity.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said earlier that countries should give another push to finish the negotiations despite wide differences that have raised fears that the round is dead.
Lamy told delegates that from here on he would consult in various configurations, including at the ministerial level.
Lamy said his 'door is open' for delegations and that negotiators should continue their work. – TradeArabia News Service