Trade ministers begin make or break talks on Doha Round

July 21st, 2008 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Geneva, July 21 (Xinhua) Trade and agriculture ministers of more than 30 member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) started talks here Monday seeking to make a breakthrough in the stalled Doha Round of trade negotiations. The focus of the talks will be on trade in agriculture and industrial market access, the two key issues that have eluded consensus since negotiations started in the Qatari capital of Doha in 2001.

In the week-long meeting, the ministers will try to reach agreement on the so-called modalities of agriculture and NAMA (non-agricultural market access), which include the methods and formulas of subsidy and tariff cuts.

Without a breakthrough, the goal of concluding the Doha Round of trade talks by the end of the year could fail, analysts said.

The Doha Round, formally known as the Doha Development Agenda, was launched with the aim of reducing global trade barriers and help poor countries achieve economic development.

It has missed all previous deadlines for conclusion, mainly because of differences between developed and developing WTO member countries on agricultural subsidies and industrial tariffs.

Rich countries like the United States are under pressure to cut substantially its huge farm subsidies, which developing countries say are distorting world trade.

Developing nations also want greater access to markets in rich countries for their agricultural products.

In return, industrialised countries are demanding a better deal for their manufactured goods in developing markets.

The stakes for a Doha Round deal are very high, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said Monday ahead of the ministerial talks.

Sharply rising prices for food and energy, rapidly decelerating economic growth and instability in international markets have raised concern in all corners of the world, Lamy said in a statement.

“Striking a deal in the coming days would send a signal to the world that working together we can address these problems,” he said.

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