U.S. negotiators disappointed, but still hopeful on Doha Round

They’re disappointed that yet another deadline passed without a substantive agreement, but U.S. negotiators say they’re not ready to give up on the Doha Development Round of the WTO talks.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy began the latest series of negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, on an optimistic note June 29, saying he believed the United States was willing to make more concessions on farm subsidies to help finalize an agreement.

But, buoyed by a united front by farm organizations and farm-state congressmen back home, U.S. representatives said the European Union and members of the G-20 developing countries must be willing to do more on market access. The latter didn’t happen, so the talks ended without a breakthrough.

“We remain fully committed to an ambitious, robust round that opens new markets for the world's farmers, manufacturers and service providers,” said Susan Schwab, the newly confirmed U.S. trade representative. “This is the only way to deliver on the Doha promise as a development round. We have no intention of giving up hope."

“The meetings this week were important – our big task was to agree on how to deliver on the Doha mandate to ‘substantially improve’ market access in agriculture through programs of fundamental reform and by reducing barriers to industrial goods,” said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who attended the meetings with Schwab.

“We don't have all the answers yet, but the central question of market access is squarely on the table. We also had a long overdue discussion on the balance that we all need to achieve for the Round to succeed.”

Schwab and Johanns made their comments at a press conference at the conclusion of the Geneva ministerial.

“We are disappointed but we will not be deterred,” said Ambassador Schwab. “Last October, the United States took a risk that's associated with leadership by putting on the table a major agricultural offer, expecting that it would be reciprocated by similarly bold moves by others. That hasn't happened yet. Creating new trade flows will be the yardstick that is used to measure our success.

“As Ministers reflect and consult, with the help of Director General Lamy, we must shift the debate from how to grow loopholes in both agriculture and manufactured goods that undermine liberalization and focus instead on what each of us – developed and developing countries alike – can bring to the table to ensure the Round succeeds.”

Schwab said U.S. negotiators are “ready to roll up our sleeves and work to find the breakthrough that will enable the successful conclusion of the Doha Round. It is the right thing to do for the U.S. economy, global development, and strengthening of the world trading system.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss said he also believes the Doha round can still be successful.

“While the negotiations broke off without any progress, I remain hopeful and optimistic that the talks can continue towards a successful conclusion,” he said. “Ambassador Schwab and Secretary Johanns deserve praise for continuing to push for a meaningful agreement in spite of significant pressure.

“Member countries must be ambitious and commit themselves to liberalizing trade. That means new trade flows and export opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers. The United States will not unilaterally disarm and reductions to domestic support remain conditional on the amount of market access achieved in the negotiations.”

Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia, said the United States will continue to do everything it can to achieve an agreement, “the EU and the G-20 must come forward with meaningful offers rather than political posturing.”

e-mail: [email protected]

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.