Leaders from the world's main trading nations supported a quick resumption of the frozen Doha Round global trade talks after meeting in the framework of the World Economic Forum that ended this weekend in Davos, Switzerland.
A release from the Swiss Ministry of Economy said Sunday that "leaders expressed a strong wish for a quick resumption of full scale activity in Geneva" following the meeting with World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy. "The clear signal for the resumption of full scale negotiations in Geneva received strong support from political leaders and the business community gathered in Davos". The meeting of the select group of WTO members on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum was aimed at finding a way forward for the five-year-old talks which broke down in acrimony last July. "We must tell the world that the Doha round is not dead" underlined EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson. Director General Lamy suspended the negotiations at WTO headquarters in Geneva last July because of the persistent deadlock between the European Union, the United States and developing countries over trade tariffs. Decisions in the WTO must be taken with the approval of all 150 members. Nevertheless Lamy said he did not expect negotiations to take the same course that led to their breakdown in 2006 and highlighted the "clear" signals of commitment. Talks on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum had proved that "you can defreeze even in Davos", he said. "We'll need a new US offer on agricultural subsidies, a new one from the EU in agricultural tariffs and new Indo-Brazilian offer on industrial goods and services," the WTO chief said after the meeting. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson pointed out that "the alternative to what's on the table is not the perfect deal, but no deal at all". Mr Lamy said ministers would try a fresh "landing approach" to reach a deal "as soon as we can as time is running out". Mr Mandelson cautioned that any deal needed to strike "a balance between the need to advance decisively on farm trade liberalization and the need to respect the reasonable agricultural sensitivities of the less competitive and those with large subsistence farm sectors". But in spite of optimism, key countries such as France, United States and Brazil have clearly stated conditions to advance. The French government in particular has insisted that the EU should not make any new offer to reduce import tariffs on farm products, a key bone of contention with the United States and developing nations. Mandelson said that the EU was ready to improve its offer on agriculture "in the right circumstances", to move closer to the demands of the G20, but also suggested others needed to offer concessions on industrial goods and services. "Every key player will need to show new commitments and new flexibilities including on NAMA (Non Agricultural Market Access) and services" he added. The EU has been asking emerging economies in particular for better offers in those areas in return for freer access to the Union's huge consumer market for their imported farm produce. "I come from these meeting with a feeling of true optimism but also realism because of all the work we have ahead", said US Trade Representative Susan Schwab. On Friday, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had told the World Economic Forum that rich nations should show flexibility to help conclude a vital agreement. "We have never been so close to doing a deal like this," he told the gathering of political and business leaders. But Lula da Silva added that Brazil was ready to make concessions and influence the G20 group it leads with India, if Europe and the US were also prepared to move