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WTO “stocktaking” meeting fails to make progress

published 15 April 2010 updated 15 April 2010

The latest attempt to kick-start stalled global trade talks ended on a sour note in March as European trade officials openly accused the United States of foot-dragging.

The Europeans said the Obama Administration has not clearly spelled out its position on the stalled World Trade Organisations’ Doha Round negotiations.

The United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk dismissed the criticism, saying the US has been very clear on what is needed to end the impasse in the talks.

“I think if anyone takes the time to read the USTR web site or read President Obama's speeches on trade they will know exactly where the United States stands on the Doha Round,” Kirk told reporters in Brussels following the stocktaking meeting in Geneva.

“Manufacturing and financial services in the developing world are going to be key drivers for economic growth in the coming decades. It is simply impossible for the United States to accept an agreement without concessions from Brazil, China, and India on these issues.”

The stocktaking meeting, agreed to at the WTO Ministerial meeting last December, was supposed to breathe new life into the negotiations and set a timeline for the completion of talks by the end of the year.

But with no progress made, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy tried his best to put on a brave face.

“Everyone agrees that no miracle solution is available to us at this point in time,” Lamy stated at a meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee. “But what has come from every member I have met is that nobody is contemplating dropping the ball. Everyone is still very much committed to the mandate of the Round and to its successful conclusion.”

Behind the scenes, however, as the troubled negotiations stumble along, many trade officials are now expressing their frustration, with some even suggesting that the Doha Round be suspended or abandoned altogether.