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Future of the WTO round in the balance

Future of the WTO round in the balance

Trade ministers are looking to the European Union to show leadership at a critical point in the Doha Development Round negotiations, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said that if World Trade Organisation ministers did not get break-through on agricultural market access within the next week, the round was at risk.

Other countries would be called upon to make significant commitments in other areas such as non-agricultural market access and services, but agriculture was the key to achieving success in the round.

Mr Sutton, speaking at the FIPs-plus meeting in Geneva, said that time was running out to get a consensus on major issues before the Hong Kong World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in December.

The meeting of the Five Interested Parties (FIPs) broke up yesterday after the European Union was unable to better its offer to open up agricultural markets.

“When I was in Geneva last week we all thought we were making progress – there was a significant movement towards cutting farm subsidies. But it was clear that unless that was matched by an opening up of markets everything could fall by the wayside.”

Mr Sutton said today’s meeting was sobering, all the more so because of the very limited time before the crucial Hong Kong meeting.

All WTO Members have committed to a substantial improvement in market access and this was reaffirmed by the EU recently. However, the talk is not matched by action. Until this happens it is hard to see where we go from here.

“We have days not weeks to avert a crisis.”

Mr Sutton went to Geneva at short notice to attend the FIPs-plus meeting. He has also met with United States trade representative Rob Portman, Brazilian minister Celso Amorim, and Canadian ministers Jim Peterson and Andy Mitchell.

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