Not surprisingly, completion of the Doha Round of international trade negotiations by the end of this year is the Bush Administration's top trade priority for 2006. But unless the 148 members of the World Trade Organization soon find common ground among a host of items on an ambitious negotiating agenda and dramatically pick up the pace of the talks, reaching agreement by yearend will be a surprise.
The talks, already more than a year behind schedule, are being held up by major differences over agricultural tariff and subsidies as well as the so-called North-South Divide, a major difference between developed nations and developing countries over trade goals and results.
In a March 1 report to Congress, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said the U.S. "will continue to do all we can to achieve a successful result" in the Doha Round. Portman also indicated the administration will continue to negotiate bilateral and regional free-trade agreements such as the pact announced this week between the U.S. and Colombia.