Predictably, leaders of the United States and the European Union (EU) meeting in Vienna on June 21 urged all 149 members of the Geneva, Switzerland-based World Trade Organization (WTO) "to demonstrate the political will and courage necessary to achieve an ambitious and balanced agreement."
However, the joint U.S.-EU statement provided no hint as to whether that will be forthcoming. The current round of international trade talks--named after the capital of Qatar, where they were launched in November 2001 -- are a year behind schedule.
The WTO has lately been pushing for an agreement by the end of this year, in part because U.S. President George Bush's accelerated trade negotiating authority is set to expire in mid 2007 and the U.S. Congress is not expected to immediately renew it.
For there to be an agreement by yearend, there would have to be unexpected progress on agricultural export subsidies and tariffs as well as on market access issues that divide many of the world's developing and economically developed nations.