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WTO food talks end in suspension and failure

By Anthony Fletcher , 25-Jul-2006

Pascal Lamy will demand a suspension of the Doha round of agriculture talks this week, after WTO members failed to reach a meaningful consensus.

This effectively means that the much-heralded talks, which were supposed to introduce important changes in global trade tariffs, have been a failure.

"We have missed a very important opportunity to show that multilateralism works," said Lamy, the WTO director general.

 

"The feeling of frustration, regret and impatience was unanimously expressed by developing countries this afternoon."

 

The main blockage is in the two agriculture legs of the triangle of issues, market access and domestic support. Differences of opinion over these issues has proved terminal.

 

"I very much regret that we were unable to find consensus among the G6 on the Doha Round 'modalities'," said EU agriculture minister Mariann Fischer Boel.

 

"We must be under no illusion that this break down can be painted in rosy colours."

 

There have always been significant differences between various trading blocs - the EU trade commissioner recently called the US the 'biggest single block' to the successful completion of the round but there had been a vague anticipation that some sort of accommodation could be reached.

 

This is now further away than ever. Lamy did not say when the negotiations would resume, but argued that movement towards a conclusion could only result from internal work within countries.

 

The decision to suspend negotiations was taken after talks among six major members broke down on Sunday. Ministers from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States had met in Geneva to try to follow up on instructions from the St Petersburg Summit on 17 July.

 

The Geneva meeting was "lengthy and detailed but at its conclusion, it remained clear that the gaps remain too wide," said Lamy.

 

Lamy has therefore recommended the talks be suspended in all subjects across the round as whole to give members time to reflect. He warned however that there was a real possibility that an opportunity to integrate more vulnerable members into international trade could be lost.

 

"If the political will really exists, there must be a way," he said. "But it is not here today.

 

"And let me be clear: there are no winners and losers in this assembly. Today there are only losers."

 

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