After a Hanoi meeting Nov. 15 with trade ministers from APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Council) nations, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy reported, "All of them expressed a sense of urgency and joined in calling for a rapid restart of the negotiating engines in Geneva."
The negotiations Lamy was referring to are the Doha Round of international trade talks, now stalled and nearly two years behind their original schedule. The major stumbling block is agriculture, specifically what to do about reducing farm subsidies, cutting agricultural tariffs and widening market access for economically developing nations.
Restarting the talks may prove even more difficult in the wake of this month's Democratic Party victories in the U.S. Congress. The incoming 110th Congress, with both House and Senate under the Democrat's control and more protectionist than the departing 109th Republican-controlled Congress, may refuse to renew President George W. Bush's "fast-track" negotiating authority. Many U.S. trading partners consider the negotiating authority, which is slated to expire in 2007, a pre-condition to serious negotiations.