Speaking at a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Uruguay Round, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy once more stressed the importance of resuming the Doha round of trade talks. He has been pushing this message for some time, but some signs are surfacing around the globe that others are feeling a sense of urgency.
Time is running out, Lamy says: "we have a rather limited window of opportunity between now and the northern Spring of 2007, given the parliamentary conditions in the United States."
He holds hope for resuming talks, pointing out that attitudes are changing among WTO members.
"The specter of failure, which was being seriously considered by Members, has resulted in a sense of urgency to resume," Lamy says. "At this stage, we are not yet at the point of calling Ministers go back to the negotiating table, but we are resuming technical work across all issues, at the call of the Chairs of the negotiating groups."
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is talking with ministers in India, a major WTO player, and is attempting - although apparently not yet succeeding - to get ministers there to yield their protection of 'special products,' an issue that has been problematic for Washington in trade talks.
According to the GMF Trade and Development website, Steve Tripoli of Marketplace said in a radio report Tuesday that "From Asia to Europe to North America trade reps are chattering again. The basic message is, we've really got to get this [Doha Round] done."
The major stumbling block in the Doha round has been agriculture, where Lamy says WTO nations have the opportunity to level the playing field by lowering subsidies.
"The Doha Round has the potential to reduce trade distorting subsidies to much lower levels than previously accepted," he says.