July 2nd, 2006 03:59 EST
WTO Talks in Geneva End Without Solving Agricultural Access Issues By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington -- World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Geneva have ended
without a breakthrough on contentious agricultural issues, but U.S.
officials pledged continued efforts to work toward a solution.
"We remain fully committed to an ambitious, robust round that opens new
markets for the world`s farmers, manufacturers and service providers," U.S.
Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement issued after the
Geneva talks concluded July 1.
Terming such a result to represent "the only way to deliver on the Doha
promise as a development round," Schwab declared, "We have no intention of
giving up hope." The negotiations, formally called the Doha Development
Agenda, have been plagued by disagreement over the agricultural issues
almost since their start in 2001.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, another key U.S. participant in the
talks, said the main task in Geneva had been to "agree on how to deliver on
the Doha mandate to `substantially improve` market access in agriculture
through programs of fundamental reform and by reducing barriers to
"We don`t have all the answers yet, but the central question of market
access is squarely on the table. We also had a long overdue discussion on
the balance that we all need to achieve for the Round to succeed," he said.
Johanns and Schwab had foreshadowed tough times for the negotiations in
comments they made earlier during the talks.
On June 30, Johanns told reporters that he was worried about the outcome in
light of developing countries` proposals that he said would virtually
preclude any new access for U.S. farm exports. (See related article (
And, heading into the July 1 session, he again said that earlier debate on
three areas -- ones he referred to as "the three S`s" and listed as
arrangements covering "sensitive products, special products and special
safeguard mechanisms" -- were continuing to prove intractable.
"I will be
very, very candid with you. After that debate I am worried," he said.
After several days of bilateral and small group meetings, Schwab and
Johanns described the situation as serious, but not beyond hope.
"We are disappointed but we will not be deterred," Schwab said.
"Last October, the United States took a risk that`s associated with
leadership by putting on the table a major agricultural offer, expecting
that it would be reciprocated by similarly bold moves by others," she said,
adding, "That hasn`t happened yet."
"As ministers reflect and consult . we must shift the debate from how to
grow loopholes in both agriculture and manufactured goods that undermine
liberalization and focus instead on what each of us -- developed and
developing countries alike -- can bring to the table to ensure the round
succeeds," Schwab continued.
"We are ready to roll up our sleeves and work to find the breakthrough that
will enable the successful conclusion of the Doha Round. It is the right
thing to do for the U.S. economy, global development, and strengthening of
the world trading system," she said.
The Doha round is scheduled to wrap up in just six months.
For additional information on U.S. trade policy, see USA and the WTO (
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: