WTO Draft Accord Highlights Deep Differences

The World Trade Organization (WTO) on June 22 released a long-awaited draft accord that negotiators hope will lay the foundations of a treaty to liberalize global commerce. The 74-page draft contained 760 bracketed sections, demonstrating the tough task ahead facing a meeting of trade ministers at the WTO's Geneva headquarters scheduled from June 29 to July 3.

The 149 trading nations in the WTO have been struggling for years to make strides in their Doha Round talks. The negotiations kicked off in the Qatari capital in 2001 with the goal of breaking down barriers to commerce and using trade to improve the lot of the developing world. Disputes have hinged broadly on rich countries' demands that the developing world drop customs barriers against industrial goods and free up its service sector, while developing countries in turn are pushing for fairer trade for their own farm exports.

The state of play in the WTO's industrial goods talks is even further behind, said their chairman, Canadian trade ambassador Don Stephenson. As a result, he opted simply to take stock of what was on the table rather than proposing the language of a deal. "I regret that I am unable to fulfill that mandate, as a result of the failure of the negotiating group to find consensus on many important issues," he said. "The present report is, at best, a step in the direction of full modalities."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

TAGS: Trade
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