- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab will travel to Brazil today for the first of a series of meetings meant to pick up the pieces of global trade talks that broke up early this week.

World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations to spur commerce and help lift developing countries out of poverty collapsed as the United States faced off with Europe, India and other countries over farm subsidies and tariffs.

“The Doha round obviously is in serious trouble but it isn’t dead yet,” Mrs. Schwab said yesterday, referring to the city in Qatar where negotiations began in 2001.

“We fully intend … to do everything possible to see it to a successful conclusion,” she added.

But President Bush’s trade envoy acknowledged that it could take years for the WTO’s 149 members to reach a consensus on new trade rules, or that they may never finalize a deal.

“We don’t know whether we’re even going to be able to … get to yes on Doha, or will we get to yes on Doha in three months, in six months or three years,” Mrs. Schwab said.

Mrs. Schwab and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim this week will discuss ways to move the talks forward.

Mrs. Schwab also noted upcoming meetings that will focus on WTO talks, including gatherings with trade ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in August, with Australia and other major agricultural exporters in September, and with trade ministers at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group summit in November.

The collapse of negotiations Monday in Geneva quickly led to recriminations among the six parties — the United States, European Union, Japan, India, Brazil and Australia — trying to craft a compromise that would be acceptable to all WTO members.

Those countries now are trying to figure out what to do next.

“Doha will remain a central priority of European trade policy. We will work to bring it back to life and to success,” Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, said Tuesday.

But it is not clear how the countries will bridge their differences and reach the final goal of alleviating poverty.

“The writing is on the wall. The WTO trade model has no future,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, part of a consumer group founded by Ralph Nader that is skeptical of free trade.

Another observer was less dire about the outlook.

“The negotiations will continue, because ultimately reduction of agricultural protectionism and subsidies is in the interest of most countries, industrialized and developing alike,” said Antoine Bouet, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, a research group funded in part by the World Bank.

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