Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May09/07)
continuing to review Doha Round talks, says new USTR
in SUNS #6700 dated 14 May 2009
13 May (Kanaga Raja) -- The United States is committed to a successful
conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations and is presently
continuing to review the negotiations and see how it could be moved
forward, the Barack Obama administration's new Trade Representative,
Mr. Ron Kirk, said here Wednesday.
remarks came at a media briefing at the end of his first-ever visit
to the World Trade Organization.
USTR indicated that the Obama administration is reviewing the Doha
negotiations but that in terms of the overarching review of US trade
policy, for the most part, the administration has kind of worked through
that process. An overall impression left after the media briefing, and
apparently among several trade diplomats he had met, was that the main
thrust of the US
mercantilist policies have not and will not change, only its tone.
new USTR arrived in Geneva on Monday for a two-day visit where he
met with WTO ambassadors and officials. Meetings included a session
with the Group of Latin American and Caribbean
countries (GRULAC), a meeting with the Chairs of the WTO Negotiating
Groups and a working lunch and dinner with several WTO Ambassadors.
Tuesday, he met with Swiss Minister Doris Leuthard, the African and
LDC groups and had meetings with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and
EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton.
at the media briefing Wednesday, Kirk said that he had a successful
and productive week. In his meetings, he had the opportunity to engage
in very frank and candid but useful discussions with many of the trading
of the key topics of the discussions has been the US
intention with regard to the Doha Development Round, said Kirk.
US continues to review the negotiations.
In fact, part of my rationale for being here this early in my tenure
is a continuation of that review and trying to gain a deeper understanding
of the perspectives of many of our partners of where we are in the negotiations
and the best path for us to go forward."
highlighted, from the perspective of the US, some of the
points that he made in his discussions with delegations here. One is
that both President Barack Obama and he are committed to a successful
conclusion of the Doha Development Round.
see it not only as a critical component of what the President believes
should be an overall worldwide response to the current economic crisis"
but it's also critical to the sustainment of many of the least developed
the US, success (in the Doha Round) means
a "balanced and ambitious agreement with meaningful market access
gains for all involved."
said that the US is critically aware that this is
a development round and does not believe that the LDCs should share
the biggest burden of this or make the sacrifices necessary in order
to bring the Doha Round to a successful conclusion.
US does believe that there is an opportunity
for leadership among many of the "advanced developing countries
to make the kind of choices that are required for those of us who choose
to seek leadership here at the WTO."
the US stands ready to work towards a
successful conclusion to the Doha Round, Kirk said that it recognizes
that its participation is not the only factor necessary to bring the
round to a successful conclusion. "It will take hard work and cooperation
from all the negotiators at the table to reach the successful conclusion
we all desperately desire."
we should all be willing to consider changes to the process that could
put the negotiations on a more direct path to success."
said that the US does not believe that the Doha
Round should be started over or change its underlying mandate. The US seeks to build
on the progress made and find the best way forward. "And we collectively
want to think about [a] new path to address the remaining issues."
response to a question, he said that the US will continue to press and make the case that
the emerging economies, in particular Brazil,
India, China and to some degree South Africa,
"can play I think a very unique and productive role in finding
a path to go forward."
response to another question, he said that President Obama strongly
believes that the best help that we can give to some of the LDCs is
to get to a successful conclusion of the Doha Round "as soon as
haven't set a definitive time-line. We know everyone wants relief now,
but we believe the substance of our talks will drive the process, which
will ultimately define the time-line," he said.
what he meant by a change in process, Kirk said that with respect to
the good substantive work that has been done, "obviously, something
needs to happen differently to get us to a successful conclusion. And
in as much as the last three times we came together for whatever reason
and to try to bring a conclusion to the Doha Round, we haven't been
able to do so."
we need to look at a different delivery mechanism, let's be open to
do that," said Kirk. "But let's not sacrifice the basic underlying
principles but make sure that we are open to whatever it is that might
drive us to a successful conclusion."
media reports in the US suggest that the US
administration and Kirk appear to be viewing favourably an idea being
floated (initially by Canada)
that members should go straight away to schedule their commitments in
agriculture and non-agricultural market access, without having to agree
on the modalities. This has been interpreted by several developing country
trade officials as an attempt to get around the need for the US and Europe
to commit themselves to reduce their various agricultural subsidy programmes.
about the cotton issue, Kirk said that the US
continues to believe that whether it's the issue of cotton or any other
issue associated with the Doha Round, they will best be resolved in
the context of the completion of the Doha Round.
response to another question on what the US contribution to the Doha Round is, Kirk said
that the US has one of the most open markets
to the developing countries.
said that what the US believed can be helpful in bringing the Doha
Round to a conclusion is to provide an opportunity for meaningful market
access for all of the countries involved including the developed and
what the US defines as
the "advanced developing countries."
said that for some of the LDCs, their final frontiers are not going
to be in the US, but where they can have an opportunity for
additional market access is places like India,
China, Brazil and South Africa.
think it's important that those countries that are growing stronger
be invited to the table to see if they can be helpful in perhaps finding
ways that we can create additional opportunities for all of us."
when the US would
be concluding its review of trade policy, Kirk said that in terms of
the overarching review of US
trade policy, the US
for the most part has kind of worked through that process.
said that Doha is a bit different because of the extraordinary
potential of it but also it's complexities. That review was bumped up
to the level of the National Economic Council.
first stage was the review within the US and the next stage will be the US' continued
engagement with its partners here at the WTO now and over the next several
weeks "to see if we can collectively come up with some common themes
and maybe find that thread that helps us thread the needle to move forward."
are not locked in to any particular process in terms of whether we stick
with negotiating existing modalities or go to scheduling (of tariff
commitments). "We are suggesting that we have to be open to all
possibilities," he said. +
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