Farming nations seek to revive trade talks
Punta Del Este (Uruguay), April 20, 2010
The world's largest economies could make progress to revive long-running world trade talks at two G20 summits later this year, farmers and officials from agricultural nations said.
The 19-member Cairns Group of countries is meeting in Uruguay to consider how to inject new life into the World Trade Organisation's Doha round of negotiations that it sees as vital to a sustained global economic recovery.
The G20 group of major world economies had called on trade ministers to reach a Doha agreement by 2010, but the political will to close stubborn gaps between rich and poor countries and importers and exporters has been lacking.
But Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said progress could be made at two G20 meetings later this year, and that a series of bilateral talks aimed at narrowing differences could help.
"If we can bring about that narrowing then we've got two opportunities through the G20 to make progress this year; Toronto in June and Seoul in November," he told reporters.
The Doha round was launched in the capital city of Qatar in late 2001 with the goal of helping countries prosper through trade. But negotiators have missed every deadline set by themselves or political leaders for finishing the round.
"We're of course frustrated with the failure of the Doha round to conclude," Crean said, adding that achieving a Doha deal this year was "looking hard."
"If we're looking for a global response to sustained economic recovery, trade is the low-hanging fruit," he said.
Leaders of farming groups at the meeting urged world leaders "to show the necessary political will and responsibility to achieve a satisfactory conclusion" to the Doha round, a statement said.
WTO Director General Pascal Lamy estimates nearly 80 per cent of the issues in the negotiations have been resolved.
But the slow progress in bridging the remaining differences has fueled suggestions the talks be paused for a while or scrapped altogether to focus on other trade areas.
Much of the impasse comes from Washington's demand that major developing countries make better offers to open their farm, manufacturing and services markets in exchange for US cuts in farm subsidies and politically sensitive tariffs.
New US agricultural trade negotiator Isi Siddiqui was also attending the two-day meeting as well as officials from the European Union, India and Brazil.
Cairns Group members account for more than 25 per cent of the world's agricultural exports. – Reuters