Trade ministers cautiously agreed Saturday
to resume world trade negotiations that have been stalled for months.
Reporting for VOA from Paris, Lisa Bryant has more on an issue that
dominated the last day of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in
Ministers from some 30 countries offered few details about how they
plan to unblock the so-called
Doha Round of world trade talks, which have been frozen since last summer.
But a short statement issued by the Swiss Economics Ministry, which
organized the informal ministerial meeting Saturday, said the group wanted
a quick resumption of 'full-scale activity' in the trade talks.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, an
annual meeting gathering some of the globe's most powerful politicians and
business leaders at the Swiss resort of Davos. During a special panel on
the stalled talks, World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy
sounded cautiously optimistic.
"I remain of the view that it is doable," he said. "What we got this
morning is the message that the momentum was there, that we are switching,
or that we have to be prepared to switch from this flying mode above the
landing zone, which we have been doing for some time, to the sort of
switching to the approach mode."
Even if political will to resume trade negotiations is there, and many
leaders say it is, major sticking points remain. Key among them are
disagreements between the EU, the U.S. and developing nations over
slashing agricultural tariffs, which developing nations say put their
farmers at a disadvantage and protect farmers in wealthier nations.
Elections in France later this year may also break the momentum to
strike a deal. Meanwhile, special congressional 'fast-track' authority in
the U.S. to approve a trade deal expires at the end of June.
a number of leaders remain optimistic, including British Prime Minister
Tony Blair. Speaking at Davos Friday, Blair said a new trade deal could
particularly benefit developing countries.
"There is really no substantive reason why we can't get a deal done,
that this would be enormous in development terms," said Mr. Blair. "An
aid-for trade package would be enormously beneficial for countries in
Africa, and, actually, for the rest of the world."
Lamy of the WTO has not said when he will officially announce the
official restarting of trade negotiations. But, he acknowledged, the
window of opportunity is a narrow one.