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U.S. Moves to Push the Doha Talks Forward

Posted January. 12, 2004 23:07,   


The United States is moving to restart the Doha Development Agenda, putting pressure on the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to reach an agreement on the multilateral trade negotiations.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Robert Zoellick, U.S. trade representative, said that he would send a letter to all 148 countries of the WTO, laying out a series of ideas in an effort to reach an agreement on a negotiating framework by the middle of this year.

Zoellick also said that he would visit a number of countries next month to discuss the possibility of moving the stalled Doha round negotiations forward. He added he wanted to make some progress on the talks this year.

The U.S. has focused on bilateral trade negotiations by using such tactics as safeguarding and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) since the Doha round negotiations dissolved at a ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico last September.

Jung Young-jin, a lawyer with a practice area of international trade at Lee & Ko, one of the reputable law firms in South Korea, said a new move could be interpreted to be the U.S. trying to expand its trade agreements from a series of bilateral trade deals to multilateral ones.

Zoellick said that no agreement would be possible without the elimination of the agricultural export subsidies by the developed countries, signaling that the U.S. could accept the developing countries’ requests for eliminating farm subsidies by the advanced countries.

He also said he wanted the chairmanship of the WTO’s general council to go to a developing country official when the incumbent chair steps down at the end of this month. He named several countries, including Brazil, Chile, Pakistan, Singapore, and the Republic of Panama as possibilities.

This is in sharp contrast with the former U.S. position that had blamed the developing countries for the breakdown in Cancun last year and made references to taking retaliatory actions against them. Now the U.S. seems to try to take a favorable position in a new meeting of the Doha round negotiations by placating developing countries.

The new move by the U.S. could offer South Korea both opportunities and challenges. While South Korea can be put under high pressure by the U.S. urging it to open its market, it can take a favorable position in the multilateral framework when negotiating to open its rice market.

A director of economy and trade department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Uruguay Round negotiation showed that the multilateral setting could give more advantages to South Korea than bilateral ones when it negotiates with the U.S to open its rice market.

Eun-Woo Lee libra@donga.com