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WTO Abandons Plan To Revive Trade Talks

by Glenn Hess
December 22, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 51

Blaming a lack of consensus among major governments, the World Trade Organization has abandoned plans to convene a meeting of ministers to clinch a multilateral trade deal by the end of the year. Negotiations aimed at reaching an accord in the beleaguered Doha Development Round of global trade talks have dragged on for seven years because of differences over how to cut agricultural subsidies and duties on industrial goods. WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said on Dec. 12 that after a week of intensive consultations, he had not "detected the political drive" for a final push toward agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab added that "due to numerous outstanding issues voiced by several WTO members, it became apparent that the gaps were too large to bridge at this time." The U.S. wants China, India, Brazil, and other developing countries to cut duties on industrial goods more deeply and to eliminate chemical tariffs altogether. But developing nations have been reluctant to open their markets, primarily fearing surges in agricultural imports. It is unclear how strongly the Obama Administration will back the talks, and the number of lawmakers who are skeptical of the benefits of free trade is growing on Capitol Hill.



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