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Brazil suggests summit to push for WTO Doha deal

January 31st, 2010

Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim

Brazil has suggested that world leaders meet to give a final push to long-stalled negotiations for a global trade pact, World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy said Saturday.

“During the course of the discussion, (Brazilian Foreign Minister) Celso Amorim put this option on the table,” said the director-general of the WTO.

“Nobody said no, but we all said during the course of the discussion that if that was to happen, what remains to be done — which is a list of 12-13 fairly technical questions — will need to be simplified,” he added.

Some 17 ministers representing countries including Australia, China and India, as well as the European Union attended the mini-ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.

However at least two key players were absent — US Trade Representative Ron Kirk did not travel to Davos and China was represented by the Vice-Minister of Commerce, rather than the Minister of Commerce.

Neither Lamy nor Switzerland’s President Doris Leuthard, whose country hosted the meeting, would be drawn into whether or not Brazil’s suggestion was feasible.

But Leuthard said the list of unresolved issues should be trimmed to just “five or six” points before political leaders are brought in to negotiate.

She also said ministers present at the meeting reaffirmed their commitment to move the Doha Round forward in the coming months.

“It is not good enough to have senior officials meet in Geneva or have a lot of bilaterals. Ministers have to be engaged and give guidance to their officials,” she said.

Separately, the deputy chairman of India’s Planning Commission Montek Ahluwalia told the Davos conference that the failure of the world to conclude the Doha Round bodes ill for a global pact on climate change.

“The credibility for global action is going to be tested by the Doha Round, not by climate change,” he said.

“I find it very difficult to believe that if the global community can’t resolve multilateral trade negotiations that it will be able to handle more complex issues like climate change,” he added.

Lamy had said in December that a March breakthrough is needed for a Doha deal to be done in 2010.

The Doha Round of negotiations for a world trade liberalisation deal began in 2001 with a focus on dismantling obstacles to trade for poor nations by striking an accord that will cut agriculture subsidies and tariffs on industrial goods.

Deadlines to conclude the talks have been repeatedly missed.

Discussions have been dogged by discord over issues including how much the United States and the EU should cut farm aid, and the extent to which developing nations such as India, China and South Africa should lower tariffs.

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