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Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Page 10 News List

G20 hopeful of reviving Doha round of talks

WHEN OR HOW While all WTO participants at the Rio summit said yes to the resumption of talks, the WTO chief warned that more needs to be done

AFP , RIO DE JANEIRO

The Group of 20 emerging countries and world trade heavyweights -- the US, EU and Japan -- clamored here on Sunday for a resumption of the WTO Doha Round of negotiations, but offered no hard specifics on when or how.

"The [Doha] round is alive," Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, said at a news conference.

"We have taken the patient out of the intensive care unit and now it's in the sick bay," he said. "Not one of us wants the round to fail."

Brazil, South America's economic powerhouse, hosted a two-day meeting of the 23 emerging countries of the G20, joined by four of the poorest developing countries, that opened on Saturday with a pledge to work toward reviving the Doha Round to liberalize global trade.

The WTO suspended the round in July after negotiators from six major players, including the US, the EU, Brazil and India, failed to hammer out a framework of an accord after five years of talks.

On Sunday officials of the G20 and the four poor countries met with WTO, US, EU and Japanese trade negotiators, and key actors in the meeting indicated reason for optimism.

WTO Secretary-General Pascal Lamy said: "All the WTO members answered `yes'" to the resumption of the round of negotiations.

Its suspension was a "critical meltdown," he added.

With the Rio meeting, "one has passed from the `critical accident' sign to the `WTO negotiations at work' sign," Lamy said at the news conference.

According to him, the WTO countries are ready to resume negotiations "where we were in July" and to concentrate on the core issue of agriculture, "where the accident occurred."

But, the WTO chief warned, "the car isn't ready to leave the garage" just yet.

"Several weeks of discreet preparation work" on the technical issues, is needed, he said, particularly on the issue of the developing countries' special products.

Brazil's Amorim said that everyone was aware of the progress already achieved before the July suspension of the Doha Round.

"One had advanced far; it would be an enormous risk to lose this advance," he said.

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said: "We must all have more to bring to the table."

At his meeting with the emerging countries, Mandelson pledged the 25-state bloc would grant more concessions to the emerging countries on agricultural issues if the round resumes, including proposals for lower tariffs and farm subsidies.

The US' chief trade negotiator, Susan Schwab, said the US is "prepared to do more in agriculture in response to market access."

She rejected a widely held criticism that the US was at the crux of the Doha Round breakdown.

"That was a collective failure. A single country is not responsible," she said.

To which Bangladesh Trade Minister Hafiz Uddin Ahmad, speaking for the least developed countries, responded that the responsibility for progress in the trade negotiations "lies more on the developed countries than on the developing countries."

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