January 14th, 2007 05:55 EST
U.S. Trade Representative Optimistic on Future of Doha Trade Talks
Ministers to discuss trade issues at World Economic Forum in late January
Schwab spoke to reporters January 12 in Geneva, Switzerland, following a meeting with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy. The meeting precedes the World Economic Forum meetings scheduled to take place in Davos, Switzerland, January 24-28. Schwab indicated that a number of key trade ministers expect to meet during the Forum to address issues hampering the completion of the Doha round of WTO negotiations, which collapsed in July over disagreements on agriculture issues. (See related article.)
In recent months Schwab has held talks with trade representatives from Brazil, the European Union and Japan, and she noted that many of her counterparts have taken similar action.
“There are bilaterals going on all over the world that [the United States is] not a party to because a breakthrough is not going to just involve two countries or three countries or five countries. This is more of a bottom-up process with engaging the larger membership of the WTO,” she said.
Schwab said country-to-country meetings are a step in the right direction, but cautioned that “ultimately it will be substance that dictates when there’s a breakthrough” in the stalled talks. Resolution of technical issues concerning countries’ domestic agricultural subsidies, non-agricultural market access and policies on services will be crucial, she said.
Schwab said her optimism for success of the Doha round comes from the fact that parties are once again communicating.
“We’re talking to each other, we’re not talking past each other. And we’re not talking to each other through [the press]. We’re talking to each other directly, which is obviously much more conducive to reaching understanding,” she said.
Schwab said she expects the bilateral talks that have taken place in recent months will continue in the wake of the Davos meetings as countries continue to work out their differences.
“Are we near a breakthrough? No. We’ve got a long way to go for a breakthrough. Are we making progress? Absolutely, we’re making progress,” she said.
For more information on U.S. policy, see USA and the WTO.