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Important Issues Remain As Trade Talks Are Launched

By John S. McClenahen The 142 nations that came together to launch a new round of world trade negotiations at a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Doha, Qatar, are about to find out how little they have settled. For example, all indications are that the last words have not been heard about drug-company patents, textile quotas, and anti-dumping statutes. All figured in compromises made to get approval for a new set of international trade negotiations. What's more, emotional disagreement on agricultural subsidies, particularly the aid that the 15-nation European Union provides to farmers, appears to remain a potential deal-killer to any otherwise comprehensive agreement to liberalize global trade. And there's the matter of U.S. trade-promotion authority (TPA). Several other nations have indicated they will not negotiate seriously with the U.S. until Congress grants TPA to President George W. Bush. Formerly known as "fast-track authority," TPA would give Congress a chance to approve or reject -- but not to amend -- any trade deals the White House reaches with other nations. As recently as this week, reports were that the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives still did not have enough votes to pass TPA. In Doha, the WTO members approved a "work program" that calls for trade negotiations, with one exception, to be completed by Jan. 1, 2005. They imposed an earlier deadline of May 2003 for completing negotiations on improving and clarifying the world body's dispute-resolution procedures.

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