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Prospects of Doha Round Talks Not Clear
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Although members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have resumed the Doha Round talks at the technical level, whether a breakthrough could be reached by next spring remains unclear, WTO chief Pascal Lamy has said.


In a recent interview with Xinhua, Lamy reiterated that major WTO players must change position and break the deadlock on agriculture issue by next spring if they want to conclude the Doha Round talks in 2007.


"Next spring remains a sort of time horizon which all negotiators have in mind," Lamy said.


Next spring is an important occasion, because by then the US Congress would have decided whether to renew the Bush administration's "fast-track" trade negotiating authority and whether to change its current farm legislation, both of which are critical for the fate of the Doha Round talks.


But Lamy indicated that he was not sure whether WTO negotiators could bridge their differences and reach a breakthrough by next spring.


He said as WTO director-general and "a necessary broker", he would continue to "push, pull and advocate" to help major players overcome their difficulties, particularly on reducing farm subsidies and tariffs.


"It depends on negotiators...I am not negotiating myself, I'm trying to orchestrate negotiators," Lamy said.


The WTO chief also urged major players such as the U.S., the EU, India and Japan to make concerted efforts in saving the global trade promotion talks, which have been inconclusive for five years and risk being delayed for another several years if no agreement is reached in 2007.


"They have to find a better compromise than what was on the table last July, which did not work," he said, referring to the collapse of key ministerial negotiations in Geneva between the U.S., EU, Australia, Japan, India and Brazil, which led to the suspension of the talks.


Lamy said currently he had no plan to convene ministerial talks in Geneva. "I will only take an initiative if I have the feeling that a breakthrough is possible."


But he said WTO ministers are free to hold informal consultations themselves, whatever the form and participating scale.


He confirmed that more than 20 WTO ministers would gather in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos in late January, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, to discuss the Doha Round talks.


Asked to confirm media reports that he himself may make a bid to revive the talks in January by tabling his own draft text of a possible final deal, Lamy said, "it is a last-resort option."


He indicated that he would not do that until he felt that the Doha Round talks risk total failure. "History has put that it is a last-resort option, and we are not yet there."


(Xinhua News Agency December 11, 2006)


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