Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Wednesday that a deal at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) long-delayed Doha round of trade talks was urgent and possible.
“This Doha round is do-able … There is a major need to conclude this round urgently,” Rudd told a joint news conference in Brussels with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who also expressed hope for an agreement. “I believe an agreement is possible,” Barroso said.
Major countries in the WTO are trying to resolve a key technical issue in agriculture that has held up progress towards a new global trade deal, aimed at boosting the global economy and easing poverty in developing countries.
“Time is short,” Rudd said, referring to the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. “We’re looking at a few months at best, and the few weeks ahead are critical to get an outcome.”
Barroso and Rudd said in a joint statement that they had agreed to reaffirm their resolve to bring the Doha talks to a successful conclusion this year and emphasize their shared interest in achieving a balanced and comprehensive outcome that creates new trade opportunities in agriculture, industrial goods and services among developed and developing countries.
[IJ note: Further liberalization of the global financial services industry, including increasing global business opportunities for insurers and brokers, has become dependent on finding a way around the agricultural impasse].
Negotiators have been working in Geneva towards a possible ministerial-level meeting in April or May, where it is hoped a long-awaited breakthrough would occur.
U.S. President George W. Bush said last week the United States was ready to make significant agricultural concessions to reach a new world trade deal if other countries opened their markets to more U.S. exports.
Rudd said leadership and flexibility would be required from the United States, Europe, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters led by Australia.
“Without (flexibility), the cost of failure is just too great, as the world would once again yield to the forces of protectionism,” he told a separate conference in Brussels. Rudd said ministers would have to engage as soon as possible after the release of revised negotiating texts on farm and industrial products, which he expected in the next few weeks.
“Given its leadership role, the European Union has an important part to play in ensuring that the Doha negotiations are brought to a successful conclusion,” he added.
(Additional reporting by Dale Hudson; Editing by Charles Dick)
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