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Europeans Press U. S. For Doha Breakthrough Soon

Countries should try for a breakthrough in world trade talks after India has held national elections in May and could be in a better position to bargain, two top European trade officials said March 25.

Leaders of the Group of 20 developed and developing countries also “should give a strong signal to close the deal as soon as possible” when they meet in London on April 2, Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Frank Heemskerk said.

Heemskerk, in a speech at Sweden’s U. S. Embassy, said he hoped World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy would schedule a ministerial meeting in July to reach a long-awaited breakthrough on agriculture and manufacturing issues at the core of the seven-year-old round.

Heemskerk told reporters he pressed U. S. Trade Representative Kirk on the urgency of finishing the round when the two met March 24.

Both Heemskerk and Swedish Trade Minister Ewa Bjorling said they thought a breakthrough in the seven-year-old Doha round was possible after the Indian election.

A dispute between India and the United States over anti-import surge protections for developing country farmers scuttled an effort to reach a deal last July.

Bjorling said India made clear during talks in Geneva in December it had no room to manoeuvre before its general election, which runs from April 16 to May 13.

HOW SOON IS POSSIBLE?

Last week, Kirk issued a joint statement with European Union Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton saying they wanted to finish the Doha round “as soon as possible,” but stopped short of setting a concrete target.

Ashton argues that countries have agreed on nearly 80 per cent of a deal. But leading U. S. farm, manufacturing and services groups oppose restarting the round based on texts proposed in December.

If countries cannot reach a breakthrough on Doha, they have little hope of achieving another difficult deal by the end of the year to fight global warming, Bjorling said.

A Doha deal on core agricultural and manufacturing issues should be possible by July or August, although an agreement to open services markets could take another year, said Bjorling.

Bjorling said she would ask the United States to show more flexibility in the Doha talks and remember they were launched seven years ago with the goal of helping developing countries prosper through trade.

Meanwhile, a broad coalition of U. S. business groups have written to Obama urging him to seek a “stronger commitment” from G20 leaders at the London meeting not to raise new barriers to trade and investment.

Although G20 leaders took an anti-protectionism pledge in November, countries have imposed at least 47 new measures to restrict trade since then, the World Bank has said.

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