- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

The top trade officials from the United States and the European Union yesterday played up prospects for beginning new global negotiations at a meeting of the World Trade Organization this fall.
But U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and European Union trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy cautioned that their close cooperation on the WTO talks, cemented by a 15-year friendship, cannot alone stop a failure at the Nov. 8-13 meeting in Doha, Qatar.
"The United States and the European Union can only do so much to ensure success," Mr. Zoellick said during a joint appearance with Mr. Lamy. "We need the active participation and leadership of other partners."
Mr. Zoellick said the United States and Europe would have to take into account the interests of developing countries, which are taking a more active interest in trade policy than in 1986, when the last trade round began.
He raised the specter of a "real risk" to the WTO, which was created six years ago, if the talks in Qatar do not succeed. The last effort to open new negotiations in Seattle in December 1999 collapsed into disputes among WTO members.
With the Qatar meeting now four months away, the WTO summit has taken on a heightened political significance given the big political and diplomatic task of assembling support for new trade talks.
"Neither of us is playing games and posturing," Mr. Lamy said. "We are now addressing substance."
President Bush said in a speech yesterday at the World Bank that an endorsement of a new trade round would be "one of the most important objectives" of the G-8 economic summit in Genoa, Italy, this weekend.
Playing up trans-Atlantic cooperation, Mr. Lamy said that the United States and Europe, traditionally the leaders in the world trading system, have reached "a lot of convergence" on what should be included in the new talks.
Mr. Zoellick said the two sides have agreed that the talks, which likely would take years to complete, should remove barriers to trade in industrial products and services. They also should make government procurement systems more open and improve the WTO's ability to handle disputes.
But the two sides remain at odds over European proposals to incorporate the new issues of international investment and antitrust policy into the WTO, Mr. Zoellick said. Also, Europe has suggested that countries might be able to restrict imports on the basis of certain environmental standards, something the United States, fearing new barriers to farm products, opposes.
"It's clear we have a few hurdles to surmount," Mr. Lamy said.
Also, Mr. Zoellick and Mr. Lamy will have to wrestle with an issue that for years stalled the last round of global trade talks: agriculture. The United States, a major world agricultural exporter, has fought to reduce European farm subsidies, which most economists believe distort trade by encouraging overproduction.
"Agriculture remains a key priority for the United States in this round," Mr. Zoellick said.
Mr. Lamy said that European reforms to agricultural policies in 1994 and 1999 will help smooth the way for an agreement with the United States, though he conceded the issue remains contentious.
"The landscape is profoundly different" than it was during the last trade round, Mr. Lamy said. "That does not mean we do not have problems to address."

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