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Old Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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Default World trade talks ends in collapse

World trade talks end in collapse

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Marathon talks in Geneva aimed at liberalising global trade have collapsed, the head of the World Trade Organisation has said.

Pascal Lamy confirmed the failure, which officials have blamed on China, India and the US failing to agree on import rules.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said the result was "heartbreaking".

The talks were launched in 2001 in Doha and were seen as providing a cornerstone for future global trade.

The main stumbling block was farm import rules, which allow countries to protect poor farmers by imposing a tariff on certain goods in the event of a drop in prices or a surge in imports.

India, China and the US could not agree on the tariff threshold for such an event.

Washington said that the "safeguard clause" protecting developing nations from unrestricted imports had been set too low.

Possible solution?

The negotiations floundered as trade officials gathered for a ninth day.

"There's no use beating around the bush, this meeting has collapsed," Mr Lamy said.

"Members have simply not been able to bridge their differences."

He added that time was needed to determine "if and how" WTO members could end the stalemate.

The Doha development round of trade talks initially started in 2001 with the aim of remedying inequality so that the developing world could benefit more from freer trade.

However, the talks have repeatedly collapsed as developed countries failed to agree with developing nations on terms of access to each others' markets.

The US and the European Union want greater access to provide services to fast-growing emerging countries, including China and India.

Meanwhile, developing countries want greater access for their agricultural products in Europe and the US.

Recent complications


Analysts have said that the collapse of the Doha talks could symbolise an end to multilateral trade agreements.

Instead, nations may pursue dual agreements with partner nations, preferring to focus on their own requirements rather than a more common negotiating goal.

The talks in Geneva were complicated by recent increases in the price of food and fuel.

Higher prices have prompted protests in both developed and developing nations, making it harder for negotiators to reach a compromise on opening up their markets too greater competition, analysts said.

Mr Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, blamed the collapse on a "collective failure" but warned that the "consequences would not be equal", predicting that it would be countries that most needed help that would be hit hardest.

"They [the consequences] will fall disproportionately on those who are most vulnerable in the global economy, those who needed the chances, the opportunities most from a successful trade round." he said.

'Protecting livelihoods'

Trade officials had struck an optimistic tone on Friday, but this evaporated over the weekend amid acrimonious exchanges with the US accusing India and China of blocking progress.

The US says they are being overly protective towards their own farmers and are failing to do enough to open their markets.

India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath rejected the charge, saying: "The US is looking at enhancing its commercial interests whereas I am looking at protecting the livelihood of farmers."

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming echoed Mr Nath, saying the US was "asking a price as high as heaven".




Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7531099.stm
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