Frozen agriculture talks set to thaw?

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

Constructive discussions at the World Economic Forum meeting in
Davos have given the stalled Doha round of agriculture negotiations
a new impetus.

According to WTO director-general Pascal Lamy, talks between ministers from 30 countries have given "energy into the notion that the landing zone is in sight"​.

"I remain of the view that it (the Round) is doable,"​ he said. But he added that developing countries have to be convinced that there is more being offered by the major trade powers than before.

The Doha round of trade talks, aimed to free global trade by cutting industrial and agricultural tariffs and by reducing farm subsidies, were suspended in July 2006 after strong disagreements emerged between developed and developing countries, and between the European Union and the United States, on how far agricultural subsidies and tariffs on industrial goods should be cut.

Since then, numerous attempts at resuscitating talks have tended to collapse.

But informal talks at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, have convinced some that a breakthrough is feasible.

"Despite the cold outside in Davos, we have been able to defreeze the talks that were frozen,"​ said Kamal Nath, minister of commerce and industry of India.

"We are now in the endgame,"​ added Peter Mandelson, commissioner for trade at the European Commission.

"Either way, this is going to end in success or failure in the next two to three months. It would be a terrible misjudgement if we allow what we have now to slip away."

The problem is that major differences of opinion still exist, and the positive statements emanating out of Switzerland must be put in the context of statements made elsewhere on agriculture policy.

Yesterday for example the European Commission criticised US proposals for a new Farm Bill, arguing that 'modest' cuts in domestic support would not make a resumption in global trade talks any easier.

EU agriculture spokesperson Michael Mann did say however that the Commission would study the proposals before any conclusions were reached.

The EU food industry has consistently expressed disappointment at the WTO's failure to achieve any meaningful agreement at the Doha round of agricultural trade talks. It believes that a successful conclusion would help secure continued industry investment across Europe, push trading partners into reforming their agricultural systems, and provide for a level playing field for trade in food and drink products and greater trade opportunities.

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