Ministers to accelerate pace of Doha talks

Original Publication Date: 
29 January, 2006

Ministers have promised to start making the vital trade-offs that will enable the stuttering Doha round of global trade talks to reach its target of an outline deal by the end of April.

Meeting this weekend at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about 25 trade ministers vowed to accelerate the pace of talks.

At last month's World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, ministers agreed to come up with numerical formulae for cutting farm and industrial goods tariffs by the end of April. "It is not going to happen unless there is a significant change in style, pace and content," said Rachid Mohammed Rachid, the Egyptian minister who co-ordinates African countries in the talks, after this weekend's ministerial meeting.

Several months will be required to turn the formulae into specific commitments. The effective deadline for an agreement is June 2007, the expiry date for the White House's trade promotion authority.

Brazil - which co-ordinates the Group of 20 developing countries - and the US have blamed slow progress on the EU for proposing only moderate cuts in farm tariffs.

On Saturday, Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, claimed there was a new consensus that the big developing countries such as India and China would simultaneously pledge bigger liberalisation of their industrial goods and services markets in return for more cuts in farm protection.

"The mood of Davos has clearly turned away from new headline offers in agriculture to see how we can move together on all fronts," Mr Mandelson said. Mr Rachid said the phase of treating agriculture as more important than the rest of the talks was over.

Rob Portman, US trade representative, agreed there was broad consensus on the need for trade-offs. However, much work remained to be done in building public support.

Tensions in the talks were evident. Mr Mandelson and Celso Amorim, Brazilian foreign minister, had a testy exchange. Mr Mandelson accused Brazil, an efficient agricultural exporter, of passing off its own interests as those of all developing countries. Luiz In