- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

President Bush yesterday told world leaders the U.S. would eliminate its tariffs, subsidies and other trade barriers if other nations do the same.

“This is key to overcoming poverty in the world’s poorest nations. It’s essential we promote prosperity and opportunity for all nations,” Mr. Bush said at the United Nations in New York.

Mr. Bush’s challenge was meant to spur the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) so-called Doha Development Agenda, a round of negotiations started in 2001 that has become mired as 148 nations fight to gain access to new markets while protecting their own.

The Bush administration helped initiate the round in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, with a goal to lift the world’s poorest out of poverty by helping them benefit from globalization.

The World Bank estimates that a “good” WTO agreement would boost world economies by $520 billion and lift about 144 million people out of poverty over the next decade.

“The lives and futures of millions of the world’s poorest citizens hang in the balance — and so we must bring the Doha trade talks to a successful conclusion,” Mr. Bush said.

They originally were set to conclude at the end of 2004, but repeatedly missed deadlines. Now, world leaders are hoping to strike a deal by the end of 2006.

The world’s biggest economies have been unable to agree on trade policy among themselves, while rising economic powers like Brazil, India and China have raised their voices against the tariffs, subsidies and other trade barriers that keep their products out of rich markets.

The world’s poorest countries, meanwhile, have chafed at what they consider U.S. and European domination at the WTO and led a walkout during a 2003 summit in Cancun, Mexico.

In Washington this week, U.S. and European trade officials are trying to avoid another collapse when the WTO holds its next summit in December in Hong Kong.

“The rest of the world is looking to us to break through the bottlenecks, the stalemates, so that we can move … from standoff to trade-off,” said Peter Mandelson, the European Union trade commissioner, at a joint press conference yesterday with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.

U.S. and EU trade and agriculture officials Tuesday and yesterday worked to coordinate trade proposals in an attempt to push global talks forward.

“We recognize our responsibility,” said Mr. Portman, who told reporters he immediately was sending U.S. officials to WTO headquarters in Geneva to consult with other delegations on a proposal for opening markets to farm goods.

The WTO negotiations have been hung up particularly over farm policy, with developing nations demanding that Europe, the U.S., Japan and other wealthy nations eliminate farm subsidies.

The payments, worth an estimated $19.5 billion to U.S. farmers in 2005, can lower commodity prices globally and reduce incomes in poorer countries.

The U.S. and Europe have asked that the developing countries eliminate barriers that keep out foreign products in return for a reduction in subsidies.

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