For more than a year, dramatic disagreements over farm subsidies and agricultural tariffs have kept 149 countries belonging to the World Trade Organization (WTO) from putting together a new international pact. And now there's another reason for manufacturers who would benefit from more open markets to be concerned.
Such advanced developing nations as Brazil, China and India are balking at significantly cutting their industrial tariffs. And that's raised the ire of Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs at the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers. "It's simple -- you cut barriers, you get more global growth and more development opportunities; and if you don't cut, you don't get those opportunities," he insists. "The advanced developing countries have benefited greatly from the global trading system. The time has come for them to get real and to realize they must now contribute to the growth of that system."
Susan C. Schwab, the newly confirmed U.S. trade representative, is making the point as well, reminding the WTO last week that manufactured goods make up 75% of world trade. "Members need cuts that are deep enough to go substantially into applied rates, to foster trade and to create new opportunities for economic growth and development," she said.
Negotiations in the current Doha Round remain at an impasse. Unless there's quick and unexpected agreement among the nations meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, 2006 is likely to end without a new international trade pact having been completed. The current talks are named for the capital of Qatar, where they were launched in November 2001.