Schwab to discuss global trade talks with Lamy in Geneva

Original Publication Date: 
9 January, 2007

WASHINGTON - U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab will meet with the head of the World Trade Organization on Friday in a further effort to revive stalled global trade talks.

Schwab will fly to Geneva for discussions with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy on ways to revive the Doha Round of trade talks, which have been suspended since last July.

"This is an opportunity to continue the conversations she has been having with trade ministers from around the world," Sean Spicer, Schwab's chief spokesman, said Wednesday.

"By meeting with Lamy, they can discuss where there have been areas of progress and ideas for a way forward," Spicer said. "To some degree, it is a brain storming opportunity."

Both Schwab and Peter Mandelson, the European Union's top trade negotiator, said after a meeting Monday with President Bush and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that progress had been made in resolving differences.

Schwab has also talked in recent days with trade officials from Japan, Brazil, India, Australia and Indonesia.

There had been speculation that some sort of framework agreement might be reached among major countries at the annual meeting of economic officials in Davos, Switzerland, scheduled for the week of Jan. 24.

But Spicer said it would be incorrect to expect such an outcome in Davos.

"While we are hopeful that we can continue to make forward progress, I would not want anyone to believe that Davos will be the place for any type of breakthrough," he said.

The Doha talks were suspended by Lamy in July after the United States, the EU and other powerful countries were unable to narrow differences in such areas as the amount of support that rich countries provide to farmers.

But Lamy expressed optimism this week that the talks could be restarted. The negotiations are facing a deadline of July 1, when Bush loses his authority to strike agreements that receive expedited treatment in Congress.

"The signs we are seeing now are qualitatively different from what we heard last year," Lamy said in an interview published Wednesday in the Financial Times. "The political chemistry is beginning to work."

Associated Press reporter Harry Dunphy contributed to this report.