WTO chief urges flexibility as Doha enters “red zone”

TOKYO - World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy on Thursday wrapped up the first of a series of 11th-hour consultations to save the Doha round of global trade talks, urging major trading powers to show more flexibility in their search for a deal.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Thu 6 Jul 2006, 6:46 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 2:59 PM

Lamy chose Tokyo as the first stop on his mission to revive the faltering five-year-old negotiations, which he said had entered “the red part of the red zone”.

“I believe for a deal to appear we need each of the big players to put more on the table. They all have to move,” Lamy told reporters at the Japan National Press Club.

“Clearly time is not our friend.

World Trade Organisation (WTO) members asked Lamy to step in after ministeriAl level talks in Geneva last week ended without a deal.

Experts say that without a breakthrough this month the Doha round may have to be shelved for several years, potentially killing an initiative aimed at boosting world economic growth and lifting millions from poverty.

Lamy met Japan’s trade and farm ministers on Wednesday and spoke directly with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Thursday.

He said his role as an intermediary precluded him from disclosing details of the meetings, but that he was “impressed and encouraged” by Japan’s determination to see the Doha talks succeed.

“I have come out of these discussions with the distinct impression that Japan has flexibilities that it can employ in these discussions,” he said.

Other countries on his itinerary may prove less accommodating.

The Doha negotiations have set the US and Europe against each other and against developing countries on issues ranging from agriculture to industrial tariffs and service-sector liberalisation.

Lamy’s visit to Tokyo comes ahead of a summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations in St Petersburg on July 15-17.

Leaders from Brazil, India and other emerging trade powers have been invited, and many hope the meeting will serve as a forum for further talks over the Doha round.

Of his potential role in St. Petersburg Lamy would only say: ”All I can do is make myself available” to attend the meeting.

Developing countries say rich WTO states must make concessions on farm trade in return for cuts in industrial tariffs and a loosening of restrictions on cross-border services.

Rich countries have balked, however, hampered in part by differences among themselves over agricultural policy. The US resisted pressure to give ground on farm subsidies in Geneva, and talk by the European Union that it could be more flexible on farm import tariffs was not enough for a deal.

Time is running out on the Doha round because US President George W. Bush’s “fast track” authority to pass trade agreements expires next year, and months would be needed to wrap up and approve any deal.

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