G4 makes last ditch attempt to save Doha

By Philippa Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Eu trade commissioner, European union, World trade organization, Wto

Ministers from the European Union (EU), India, Brazil and the US
have begun five days of talks with the aim of finding some common
ground on which a Doha Round agreement can be built.

Meeting in Potsdam, Germany, the so-called G4 group hopes by Saturday to have agreed certain compromises, which can then become the basis for a wider negotiation among all members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva. EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, who will represent the EU at the talks along with EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, suggested success in Potsdam was crucial if the WTO were to conclude a deal to liberalize world trade in agriculture, manufacturing and services by the end of the year. "This meeting of G4 negotiators cannot finish the Doha Round, but it will determine if Doha can be finished,"​ warned Mandelson before the start of the talks. The aim of the Doha Round, launched in November 2001, was to free global trade by cutting industrial and agricultural tariffs and by reducing farm subsidies, with specific focus on achieving concrete benefits for developing countries. However, a conclusion to the talks has proved elusive with the EU and the US in particular being accused by many in the developing and developed world as failing to move far enough to reduce farm support. The talks were suspended last July, but have since restarted, with WTO negotiators agreeing earlier this year to aim for a final agreement by the end of 2007. Once a basic agreement is in place, it will take months for WTO number-crunchers to finalise its details, meaning that a general accord must be completed before the summer if the end-of-year deadline is to be met. If this does not happen, most negotiators believe the Round is likely to be put in cold storage until at least 2010. Few expect the US to be willing to discuss subsidy and tariff concessions during its elections in 2008, and the following year will see the Indians going to the polls. The EU food industry has consistently expressed its disappointment at the WTO's failure to achieve any agreement to the trade talks. It believes that a successful conclusion to the Round would help secure continued industry investment in Europe, push trading partners into reforming their agricultural systems and provide greater trading opportunities for food and drink manufacturers.

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