WTO trade talks end, called `failure'

July 02, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

GENEVA --The chances of reaching a new accord to lower trade barriers across the globe seemed more remote than ever yesterday as major World Trade Organization powers signaled their failure to make progress during two days of talks and postponed a resumption of serious discussions.

"The experience of the last several days has been somewhat disheartening," said Susan C. Schwab, the U.S. trade representative.

Schwab's aides said she would return to the United States today. India's trade minister, Kamal Nath, left the meeting yesterday afternoon. The gathering was scheduled to last until tomorrow. "There's no need to pretend that this has not been a failure," Nath said.

Pascal Lamy, the WTO director-general, said the talks were in crisis but pledged to engage in shuttle diplomacy, "so that we can fill the gaps primarily between the big players."

The so-called Doha round of trade talks, named for the Qatari capital where they began in 2001, has missed a series of deadlines. Also, the window for reaching a deal is narrowing with coming elections in Brazil and France, where politicians will soon be preoccupied with domestic affairs, and in the U.S., where there is a congressional race this fall.

Perhaps the main factor is that President Bush will lose his mandate next year to strike a deal without its being picked apart by legislators. Soon, experts say, other countries will stop negotiating with the U.S. because Congress won't likely honor deals struck abroad.

The talks are mostly stuck over agriculture. Before making additional pledges to reduce subsidies and tariffs, the Americans and Europeans are calling on developing countries such as India and Brazil to agree to open their markets to more imports of manufactured goods and services.

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