Cancun Collapse Of WTO Talks Complicates Doha Round

By John S. McClenahen Although Sept. 10-14's World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Cancun, Mexico, were intended to advance a bargaining agenda and not to complete the Doha Round of negotiations, their collapse does raise the possibility that representatives of more than 140 countries will not reach final agreement on a new set of international trade rules by the self-imposed deadline of Jan. 1, 2005. The Cancun talks failed primarily because of dramatic differences between 21 developing nations and several developed countries, including the U.S. and the 15 European Union nations, over agricultural subsidies and market access. "There can be no doubt that developing countries need access to agricultural markets of developed countries. At the same time, developing countries should not be afraid to liberalize their own markets," says Maria Livanos Cattaui, secretary general of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). "American industry wants market access," stresses Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C. "If we can't get a level playing field in the WTO, we are going to take our poker chips out of this game and start dealing in free-trade agreements where we know we can get a fair deal." ICC's Cattaui seems more optimistic about the eventual outcome of the current Doha Round of world trade negotiations, named for the city in Qatar where they were launched in 2001. "This [collapse in Cancun] is obviously a setback, but it is not the end," she states.

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