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WTO leader says agriculture is Doha ‘stumbling block’

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy says agriculture holds the key to the resumption of the Doha Round negotiations, and, until agriculture’s issues are resolved, he expects little progress toward reaching a new global trade agreement.

An article on the Web site says Lamy told European Parliament members in Brussels today that he is trying to get the five-year-old negotiations restarted by meeting with countries and groups of countries to find a solution to the impasse in the Round.

“We are going to try to exert more pressure so negotiations can restart,” he was quoted as saying. “We want to support the tacit work that’s being done, by whichever group, whichever coalition.”

Lamy suspended the talks after it became apparent that negotiators for the United States, the European Union and Brazil were unable to find common ground in disputes over agricultural subsidies and tariff rules during a meeting in Geneva July 24.

The Bloomberg article said the collapse came after the United States refused to make further cuts in agricultural spending, according to Brazil, the European Union and Japan. It did not mention the latter’s refusal to reduce tariffs on agricultural imports by more than token amounts, which U.S. officials have blamed for the breakdown.

Since July, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns have met with negotiators for a number of countries to try to find a way to restart the talks.

“There is no way this negotiation will resume if the agricultural stumbling block remains,” the Bloomberg article quoted Lamy as saying. “If it happens, the whole train of the negotiation will restart. But we are in a political situation and, whether we like it or not, agriculture has taken precedence.”

Although no official deadline has been set, WTO leaders have said a general agreement must be reached before President Bush’s trade promotion authority expires next July. Under TPA, Congress must consider trade agreements on an up-or-down vote without amendment.

Most analysts believe Congress cannot pass such legislation without the trade promotion authority rules. Some also say they believe trade promotion authority will not be extended beyond the July 2007 expiration if the Democrats gain control of one or both Houses of Congress next month.


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