EU Urges Tariff Standstill as Doha Round Down Payment

June 21, 2011

World Trade Organization members should agree to a standstill on tariffs in December as a down payment toward a larger deal in long-running world trade talks, the top EU official said Tuesday.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told reporters he believed a standstill was necessary to prevent countries from giving in to protectionist pressures to raise tariffs.

Countries have given up any hope of reaching a comprehensive deal in the nearly decade-old Doha round of world trade talks this year.

But in a bid to prevent an all-out collapse, they have set their sights on a mini-package of agreements aimed at helping the WTO’s poorest members by the time the Geneva-based world trade body holds its next major meeting in December.

De Gucht spoke to reporters before a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in which he argued it would be mistake to completely give up on the Doha round.

“Without Doha we would considerably increase the risks of protectionism. The WTO has already warned that protectionism is on the rise, despite the recovery,” he said.

A study by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute has estimated that without a Doha deal countries would be free to raise tariffs well above current levels, inflicting losses “of up to 353 billion US dollars in terms of world income and 1.9 trillion in terms of world exports,” De Gucht said.

A tariff standstill would keep current duties in place until conditions are right for a broader deal, most likely after the U.S. presidential election in 2012, he said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Doina Chiacu)

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