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Possibility of renewed WTO talks

The moribund World Trade Organization (WTO) talks that collapsed in Geneva in July might yet be resurrected this month – if only there’s a solid chance for a deal.

“If it doesn’t work in December I think the general opinion is it won’t happen again for another six months,” Graham Clarke, acting executive director of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), told the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) annual meeting here Dec. 1.

The Doha round of talks aimed at liberalizing world trade, including in agricultural products, fell apart when India, China and the United States couldn’t agree on a mechanism to let developing countries block imports when they felt their markets we’re being flooded. But since then, growing concerns about a declining world economy have world leaders talking about the need to increase trade and avoid protectionism.

WTO director general Pascal Lemay is testing the waters, but won’t call a ministerial meeting unless he’s assured a deal can be reached, Clarke said. Meantime, CAFTA has booked rooms in Geneva just in case, but given Christmas is just a few weeks away, travelling will be difficult, he said.

Clarke said CAFTA, which is made up of 15 organizations, is well-regarded by the Canadian government. It’s seen as helpful to Canadian negotiators and not confrontational, he said.

Outgoing GGC president Ross Ravelli witnessed the WTO talks collapse in Geneva.

“We saw entrenched positions by the Indians and it looked if they came back they weren’t going to change,” he said.

“It’s remarkable that you can hold the world up like that.”

The GGC is a member of CAFTA.

Clarke said CAFTA has a good relationship with Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who is aware of CAFTA’s push to open up markets to Canadian farm products. CAFTA is trying to meet with the new industry minister, Stockwell Day, to bring him the same message.

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About the author

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Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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