While representatives from the U.S., EU, and Japan discuss ways to restart the World Trade Organization's Doha round of talks, some signs are suggesting that the talks may not be held again for at least another year.
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab met with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy Friday as part of efforts to get the Doha round back on track. She reported mixed results at a press briefing.
"Are we near a breakthrough? No. We've got a long way to go for a breakthrough. Are we making progress? Absolutely, we're making progress," she says.
USDA Secretary Mike Johanns spoke with Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka about agricultural subsidies. Afterwards, Johanns told reports, "We touched upon all of the key issues of the agricultural negotiations."
Even if the new U.S. farm bill cuts agricultural subsidies that have contributed significantly to the Doha stalemate, House agriculture chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says the Democratic Congress is unlikely to renew President Bush's trade negotiating authority. The authority prevents Congress from altering trade agreements negotiated by the administration, and without it, Peterson thinks the talks may be pushed back at least two more years.
"I don't see how they are going to put something together that would pass Congress."
Peterson also says that he doesn't expect the EU, Japan, and others to end barriers on certain U.S. farm goods, which would probably mean a continued stalemate in which the U.S. avoids cutting subsidies without cooperation from those nations.
The Financial Times noted that France was not prepared to take deeper cuts in subsidies, as the office of the French prime minister said that "no new element justifies a change of position by the European Union."