- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2007

Talks among four major governments over a new international trade agreement collapsed today in Potsdam, Germany, with India and Brazil blaming U.S. and European unwillingness to lower farm aid and import duties.

The collapse in talks among the U.S., European Union, India and Brazil may mean the end of the Doha Round of world trade talks, although officials say a deal still may be possible.

“It was very clear at lunchtime and was said at lunch that it was useless to continue the discussion based on the numbers on the table,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters. “The decision not to continue with the negotiation was not ours.”

U.S. officials said they were “deeply disappointed” with the collapse.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a joint statement that although they had hoped for significant progress, “this week’s negotiations could not generate political consensus to meaningfully open markets to new trade — particularly in manufactured goods.”

The current round of global talks aims to add billions of dollars to the world economy and lift millions of people out of poverty through new trade flows. But negotiations have struggled since their inception six years ago, largely because of wrangling between rich and poor countries over eliminating barriers to agricultural trade.

The Bush administration remains committed to the World Trade Organization, Mrs. Schwab and Mr. Johanns said, adding that they “look forward to speaking with Director-General Pascal Lamy and other WTO members about next steps.”

The breakdown mirrors last July’s collapse, when negotiations among the four governments plus Japan and Australia disintegrated, prompting Mr. Lamy to suspend discussions. Without a deal among the four governments, the Doha Round, which began in late 2001 and has yet to meet any deadlines, may fail or be put on hold for years because of elections and ensuing policy changes in the U.S. and India.

{bullet}This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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