- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

The head of the World Trade Organization yesterday told leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations that they bore responsibility for the success or failure of global trade talks.

“The fact is that the chief political responsibility lies here,” Pascal Lamy, the WTO’s director general, told G-8 leaders meeting in St. Petersburg.

“At this stage, the deadlock in which we are caught will lead us to failure very soon if you do not give your ministers further room for negotiation,” Mr. Lamy said.

WTO negotiations are meant to promote commerce and improve the fortunes of the world’s poorest countries, but have stalled because the United States, the European Union, Brazil and other nations cannot agree how far to cut farm subsidies and how wide to open their markets to competition.

President Bush and his counterparts over the weekend renewed their commitment to break the impasse within a month. Mr. Bush met with leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and Russia, which is a member of the G-8 but not a member of the WTO. Mr. Lamy, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday joined the meeting to discuss the WTO impasse.

“I am convinced that now is the time for us to make a political decision, whatever it might be. We cannot leave [the round] in the hands of our negotiators only,” Mr. Lula da Silva said during brief remarks with Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush’s trade envoy, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, traveled to the WTO’s Geneva headquarters yesterday to meet with trade ministers from six of the WTO’s biggest members under the renewed mandate to break the deadlock.

The officials, from the United States, the 25-nation European Union, Brazil, India, Japan and Australia, agreed to meet twice more this month in a last-ditch effort to conclude the negotiations this year. The meetings are scheduled for Sunday and Monday and July 28 and 29 in Geneva.

The Bush administration last year was widely credited with reviving the negotiations when it outlined a plan to slash its agricultural subsidies as long as other countries lowered barriers to U.S. farm goods.

But the United States has since become increasingly isolated as the European Union, Brazil and India have demanded even deeper subsidy cuts from the United States while refusing to make the deep tariff reductions that the White House demands.

Mr. Lamy warned that failure would hurt developing countries and could lead to greater protectionism.

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