Brazil Plans Doha Trade Meeting in late November

By | October 20, 2009

Brazil plans to organize a meeting of trade ministers in late November to discuss progress in the World Trade Organization’s long-running Doha round, a senior Brazilian official said Monday.

The meeting would be an opportunity to take stock of the troubled talks just before the WTO’s much-delayed ministerial conference, which — formally at least — is supposed to focus on long-term strategic questions and not get bogged down in the Doha negotiations. “We are in the planning stages,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The idea is to do this meeting right before the WTO ministerial,” the official told Reuters. Ministers from all 153 WTO member states will be invited to the ministerial conference in Geneva Nov. 30-Dec 2.

The gathering falls on the tenth anniversary of the WTO’s failed meeting in Seattle in 1999, where police battled with anti-globalization protesters in the streets.

Critics of the WTO said on Monday in Washington they were launching a “turnaround” campaign aimed at blocking a Doha round deal and rolling back some of the trade agreements that countries have already made.

That effort will be focused in national capitals, but some groups could mount a protest at the Geneva meeting, said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Brazil will host only the “key ministers” — developing country agricultural exporters, coordinators of other country alliances within the WTO and other major players like the United States and European Union. They would meet in or just outside Geneva.

The same group met in New Delhi last month, resulting in a sharp increase in the intensity of negotiations in Geneva, with calendars packed with talks on all the key topics such as agriculture, industrial goods, services and fishing subsidies between late September and the end of the year.

Some of those talks are making progress at a technical level, for instance agreeing the data that would need to be submitted when there is an agreement in cutting farm tariffs and subsidies. But many negotiators say there has been little or no movement on more substantive questions.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said on Friday that it would be difficult to meet the new 2010 deadline for a deal set by political leaders if the pace of negotiation does not speed up.

The ministerial conference will look at the outlook for the global trading system given the state of the world economy. There will not be formal negotiations on Doha, although discussions will inevitably take place on the sidelines.

(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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