Associated France Press 18/7/2006
G8, emerging powers mobilize to save Doha
SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) - The world's leading industrialized powers have joined forces with emerging market nations in a high-profile bid to salvage global trade talks teetering on the brink of collapse.
Presidents and prime ministers from the Group of Eight conferred with the leaders of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa in an effort to spur movement in the Doha Round of negotiations -- something that has eluded their trade ministers for the last five years.
"I am convinced that now is the time for us to make a political decision, whatever it might be," Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva said after a meeting here with US President George W. Bush.
"We cannot leave it in the hands of our negotiators only. They already have done immense work, but now it seems to me that they don't have any hidden card in their pockets anymore.
"Now we're the ones that have to take our cards from the pockets."
Bush and his G8 counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia on Sunday set a mid-August deadline for negotiators to thrash out the broad outlines of a deal that would reduce barriers to world trade.
"We gave a mandate to our respective negotiators to come to an agreement on modalities within one month," European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso said.
A spokesman for Barosso said the leaders had ordered their negotiators to come to "broad agreement on key figures."
G8 trade ministers will be tasked with finding consensus on the scope and depth of cuts in tariffs, subsidies and other trade restricting barriers as part of the Doha Round, launched in 2001 but which has foundered ever since.
A European source said that if no consensus were reached by mid-August, the round could be indefinitely suspended.
The G8 directive does not apply to Russia as it is not yet a member of the World Trade Organization, the Geneva-based body that is organizing the Doha talks.
G8 leaders also Sunday issued a bland declaration on Doha, urging "all parties to work with utmost urgency for conclusion of the Round by the end of 2006."
"We commit ourselves to substantial improvement in market access for trade in both agricultural and industrial products and to expanding opportunities for trade in services," they said.
"We look to other WTO members to contribute to this objective, commensurate with their level of development."
The Doha process has been bedeviled from the start by deep differences among key trading blocs on agricultural subsidies in rich countries, seen as preventing farmers in the developing world from competing fairly on global markets, and on the scope of tariff cuts.
The United States and Europe are pressing emerging and developing countries, in particular economic powerhouses such as Brazil and India, to make their markets more accessible to industrial goods and services.
Washington in turn is under heavy pressure to reduce the trade-distorting government subsidies it makes available to US farmers, while the European Union is being asked to make deeper cuts in the import duties it imposes on exports from poor countries.
Each of the parties routinely pledges to go further but only on condition that others in the debate make concessions as well.