Trade and agriculture ministers from two dozen governments agreed over the weekend that stalled World Trade Organization talks should start again at the technical level, with political negotiations following if there is progress. But none of the officials attending a meeting in Davos, Switzerland over the weekend indicated that the ministers advanced new offers to break the impasse in agriculture. Talks have been stalled since July over subsidy and tariff cuts.
Progress requires the resolution of that impasse. WTO Director General Pascal Lamy told reporters new offers will soon be necessary on U.S. farm subsidies, EU tariff reductions and Indian and Brazilian manufactured goods. Other countries want the U.S. to drop subsidies beyond the $22 billion it has so far offered. They also want the EU to slash subsidies beyond the 39% it has so far offered.
Despite rumors, there have not been major breakthroughs yet between global partners.
"There have been no figures on the table there. The breakthrough that some had previewed, had forecast, obviously did not happen," EU Farm Commissioner Marian Fischer Boel said after she spoke to EU Agriculture Ministers yesterday, according to an AP release.
At France's request, the EU's 27 agriculture ministers are scheduled to discuss the state of the Doha round talks during their monthly agriculture council session today (Jan. 29) in Brussels, Belgium. Any improvement in the EU's tariff offer requires the support of a qualified majority of the ministers, some observers insist. Lamy has scheduled an informal meeting of ambassadors to the WTO for Wednesday to discuss the resumption in the talks. Brazil's top trade official Celso Amorin said he expected a breakthrough by late March or early April - around Easter.
"But much also depends on how far EU and US move forward on subsidies," he added. Negotiators are working against the deadline imposed by the expiration of President George Bush's trade promotion authority at the end of June.