Doha Trade Talks Limp Along

The long-running Doha round of world trade talks could stretch into 2012, but said some progress had been made over the past six months, according to a top U.S. trade official.

“The U.S. view is that there is no shortcut to a Doha success,” said U.S. chief agricultural trade negotiator Isi Siddiqui.

“Deadlines won’t do it, mandated formal processes won’t do it, and attempts at high-level ‘Big Bang’ political events won’t do it,” Siddiqui told a European farm policy audience.

Siddiqui repeated the U.S. demand that major developing countries such as China, India and Brazil make better offers to open their markets to more imported goods and services. He also warned that Congress has already began work on a New Farm bill that will govern U.S. crop subsidy programs after the current Farm Bill expires in 2012.

“Unless a Doha deal is reached between now and the autumn of 2012, the next Farm Bill will have as its guidepost our current Uruguay round commitments,” he said.

The Doha round was launched nearly nine years ago with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade. The talks collapsed most recently in July 2008 and have struggled to get on their feet ever since. Countries remain at odds over formulas for cutting farm subsidies in rich countries in exchange for cuts in agricultural tariffs in both developed and developing countries.

Disagreements over various proposals for opening manufactured goods and services markets around the world to more trade also plague the talks. Siddiqui said negotiators have made “meaningful progress” on a number of technical issues.

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