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WTO Insiders See Failure of Doha Ahead

New poll shows 71% of trade insiders say current trade talks won't conclude in 2006 and 18% say Congress won't extend TPA.

Trade talks continually miss deadlines. A new poll of trade insiders reveals the number of skeptics is increasing as time dwindles for a final agreement. An overwhelming number of respondents also say the U.S. will need to dig deeper into domestic support cuts to pass a deal.

The poll, conducted by the University of Adelaide's Institute for International Business, Economics & Law, surveyed individuals over two weeks in late May and early June and included more than 100 respondents comprised of negotiators, policymakers and experts from both developed and developing countries located in Geneva and key capital cities around the world.

Andrew Stoler, executive director of the institute, explains 71% of all respondents now think it unlikely that it will be possible to conclude the DDA in 2006. This is up from 63% of respondents who held this view in January and it is a view that is more or less evenly shared by capitals - and Geneva-based participants in the survey.

Just 18% of all respondents think that the American Congress will act to extend US Trade Promotion Authority when it expires next year (and only 14% of capitals-based participants think this is likely), Stoler adds.

Agriculture remains sticking point

Several issues tangle agricultural talks, including sensitive products and domestic support reductions.

Eighty-one percent of all respondents believe that the American offer on domestic support reductions now on the table would need to be improved by Washington's agreement to deeper cuts in subsidies before an eventual agreement can be arrived at in the agricultural negotiations. More than 85% of Geneva-based respondents held this view while 72% of capitals-based officials responded in this way.

Seventy-six percent of all respondents (82% of capitals-based and 70% of Geneva-based) respondents think that reaching agreement on modalities for agricultural market access negotiations will require limiting so-called "sensitive products" to less than 5% of dutiable agriculture tariff lines.

Overall, 77% of all respondents think that the text that the Chairman will put on the table in the week of June 19 is more likely to be his own best guess than it is to be the result of a negotiated compromise.

"Doha-lite" not viewed as sellable

Only a few weeks remain before another deadline is staring at negotiators. Talk is circulating about lowering the high level of ambition and settling for a lower common denominator outcome. According to the survey, 67% of Geneva respondents agreed a "Doha-lite" package would at least accomplish something instead of complete failure.

Stoler adds the survey revealed that only 27% of capitals-based respondents accepted the view that a lesser deal is worth it, "leaving us with the impression that survey participants in capitals may not believe that a less ambitious result from the Round would be politically sellable."

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