The Doha trade round, which aims to free global trade by cutting industrial and agricultural tariffs and by reducing farm subsidies, has repeatedly stalled as developed and developing countries have failed to find consensus. Most recently talks between the G4 - EU, US, India and Brazil - seen as preliminary to the all-150 member talks in Geneva next week fell apart at the end of June. Yet throughout it all, Lamy has remained upbeat that an agreement is possible. And the publication this week of revised draft modalities on agricultural negotiations and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) "reflect the progress that has been achieved so far". "Finding such compromise is always difficult and no delegation will get all it wants. But these texts are representative of members' views and constitute a fair and reasonable basis for reaching ambitious, balanced and development-oriented agreements," said Lamy. He called the texts, prepared by agriculture negotiations chairperson Ambassador Crawford Falconer and NAMA chairperson Ambassador Don Stephenson and circulated to WTO members this week, "negotiating instruments which will be revised and adjusted as governments continue to narrow their differences". The papers are not intended to be proposals from the New Zealand and Canadian ambassadors in the generally accepted sense of reflecting an opinion, but they represent what the ambassadors believe may be accepted by all sides in the negotiations. However Lamy said he does not expect members to be fully satisfied with the texts. "But what separates members today is smaller than what unites them. There is already an impressive package on the table. In the weeks to come it is essential that members focus efforts into overcoming those differences and reach agreement in the two sectors that hold the key to success in the Doha round," he said. The Doha round was launched in Doha, Qatar, in 2001. It involves numerous other negotiations including trade in services, trade and environment, anti-dumping, fishery subsidies, specific development issues, trade related intellectual property and trade facilitation. Lamy stressed that some agreement have been reached in the last six years, such as the elimination of all forms of export subsidies in agriculture, removal of trade barriers on 97 per cent of exports from least developed countries, reduction of highest agriculture and manufacturing tariffs by the widest margins, and reduction of red tape and bureaucratic delay in customs procedures. Stark differences do remain, however, and the flashpoints include the precise magnitude of tariff cuts, reductions in domestic farm subsidies and the degree of flexibility to be given to developing countries when opening their markets to imports - and thus greater competition.
In a continuing spirit of optimism, WTO director general Pascal Lamy has said that the gap is closing on differences between participants in agriculture trade talks and he expects draft blueprints of a deal to be helpful to next week's talks.