- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 10, 2001

DOHA, Qatar Key World Trade Organization participants started global trade talks yesterday optimistic that a deal appears closer now than at any time since the last trade round began in 1986.
"Today, we stand on the verge of producing tangible, valuable results," said Pascal Lamy, trade commissioner for the 15-nation European Union.
Securing a new round of talks has taken on urgency as the U.S. economy slips into recession, threatening to take the world with it.
Mike Moore, the WTO director-general, said countries face virtually the same set of issues that defeated negotiators in Seattle two years ago. "But we are now vastly better prepared to deal with them," he said.
The 142 member countries have spent a great deal of time before the talks negotiating the disputes that have to be worked out, including lowering trade barriers in agriculture, financial services and telecommunications.
The 15-nation European Union and the United States are closer on many issues, but the big question is whether they can persuade developing countries 80 percent of the WTO's members to sign on.
One item that will be accomplished during the five-day meeting: China will be admitted into the trade group today after 15 years of negotiations. Taiwan will be approved tomorrow.
President Bush has formally given the final green light to China's accession, the White House announced yesterday.
The atmosphere here could not differ more from the Seattle talks two years ago. Nongovernmental groups, who wreaked havoc on Seattle streets, staged only a brief protest yesterday in the lobby of the hotel where the meeting is taking place. Qatari and American security forces did not interfere with the demonstration, but maintained the same drum-tight security that has characterized the Doha meeting.
This time, WTO delegates have more to worry about than anti-globalization protesters.
The United States, Germany and Japan are all falling toward recession, a slide exacerbated by the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"The world economy needs the signal of confidence in open markets and commitment to international cooperation, which agreement here will deliver," Mr. Moore said, noting that the volume of world merchandise trade is likely to grow 1 percent to 2 percent this year, compared with 12 percent in 2000.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick predicted that success in Doha would "strengthen the case" for legislation to give the president "fast-track" trade-negotiating authority. Fast-track allows the president to submit trade pacts to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments.
Mr. Zoellick spent yesterday conferring with African and Asian trade ministers. On Thursday, he huddled with his Latin American counterparts.
Addressing the demands of poorer countries has emerged as a major theme. Even the oil-rich host of the meeting, Emir Hamad bin Kalifa Thani of Qatar, stressed the point in his remarks at the opening ceremony.
"If it is our goal that that WTO should be the engine which drives the wheel of economic development in the world, it must take full account of the needs and expectations of developing countries," he said.
Mr. Zoellick is hoping his networking will ease the way for a deal on patent rules, the most difficult rich-poor issue on the agenda.
The developing world, especially sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil, says stringent patent rules contribute to the high costs of pharmaceuticals to treat diseases such as AIDS. India, among others, wants its industry to be able to produce cheaper generic drugs.
The United States wants to limit any changes to patent stricture, but has developed a negotiating rapport with the African nations, said Lawrence Agubuzu, a senior official with the Organization of African Unity.
Europe's effort to limit changes to its costly policy of subsidizing its farmers came under attack yesterday from major agricultural exporters.
"We, as agricultural economies, are not being allowed to specialize in those things that we're good at," said Jim Sutton, New Zealand's agriculture minister. "It's time for some catch-up."
On that front, the United States has lined up against Europe, demanding tough language in the ministers' final declaration against what Mr. Zoellick called "nefarious" farm-export subsidies.
The United States is already on the defensive over its opposition to reforming the system for penalizing imports that are "dumped" in the country at unfairly low prices.
The Bush administration is under heavy pressure from Congress not to weaken U.S. anti-dumping rules and has sought to turn attention toward other countries' laws.


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