US Needs ‘Better Offers’ on Services from Doha Round Says Trade Rep

By | October 13, 2009

The United States cannot agree to a deal in the Doha round of world trade talks until other countries make better offers to open their markets to services trade, the top U.S. trade official said Tuesday.

“We know that the biggest gains to the global economy are likely to derive from multilateral services liberalization, but the offers on the table right now fail to deliver on that promise,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said at the Global Services Summit. “We have said flat-out that there will be no deal without a solid result on services which would result in new market opportunities, but we believe that a positive outcome is still achievable,” Kirk said.

The Doha round has focused “almost obsessively” on agricultural and manufacturing issues for the nearly eight years since it was launched on Nov. 14, 2001, Kirk said. He told the group that a successful agreement must also include negotiations on services and the rules governing the use of anti-dumping and other domestic trade remedy laws.

European Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said the EU agreed that better offers to liberalize services for the Doha round to advance and urged U.S. services companies to step up efforts to push for a global trade deal. “It’s central to Doha. It’s not yet had its day. It needs a bigger voice. It needs a bigger push,” she said.

Services account for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy and almost 30 percent of U.S. exports, which totaled nearly $1.83 trillion in 2008.

AGRICULTURE HAS DOMINATED
But agriculture has dominated the Doha round since it was launched in the capital city of Qatar with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade. That reflected demands on the United States and the European Union to offer big cuts in trade-distorting farm subsidies and tariffs before developing countries detailed their own concessions. Manufacturing concerns have received more attention in recent years but services talks still lag far behind.

Indian Commerce Minster Anand Sharma noted that developed countries already have a much larger share of services trade than developing countries. But India agrees that it is time for negotiations on services to proceed “horizontally” with agriculture and manufacturing, Sharma said.

Hopefully, that would set the stage for a successful WTO ministerial set for later this year in Geneva, he said.

Kirk also said the United States had opened a dialogue with the 21 economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation to explore options for boosting cross-border services trade within the fast-growing region. He said he hoped that initiative would give a boost to the services negotiations within the WTO.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean urged the United States to work harder to finish the Doha round, which he said would give the global economy a badly needed boost.

“No one is expecting Doha to be the perfect outcome,” but it would provide a new platform on which countries can build better bilateral and regional trade agreements that go even further, Crean said.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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