Collapse in trade talks leaves WTO summit deal in doubt

Desperate attempts to reach agreement on trade liberalisation ahead of the World Trade Organisation summit meeting in Hong Kong in December ended in failure on Wednesday (9 October).

Despite three days of informal talks (one in London and two at the WTO headquarters in Geneva) trade representatives from some 20 countries or blocs, including the European Union, Japan, India and Brazil, failed to reach a consensus meaning next month’s summit meeting is likely to achieve very little.

It was hoped that ministers would find a way to break the deadlock between poor countries that sought aggressive reductions in agricultural tariffs and subsidies and developed countries that wanted to see the opening up of new markets to trade and services in exchange.

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said Europe had offered all it reasonably could on agriculture accusing other countries of failing to follow suit.

“Demanding more and more in agriculture, without proper balance in commitments from others in agriculture and outside agriculture, does not add up to deal making,” he said in a clear swipe at Brazil and India.

However, Celso Amorim, Brazil’s trade minister dismissed Mr Mandelson’s claim.  He claimed Brazil’s offer to cut tariffs on industrial goods and services “fell on deaf ears”.

“We are in a very difficult situation.  All of us want a successful round, but we want a round that is meaningful,” he added.

However, officials at the WTO remain confident that a enough progress can be made at the summit to secure agreement by the end of 2006 deadline.