Pros and cons of reviving Doha [Archived]

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After a six-month total break-down in WTO negotiations on freeing up global trade, world leaders agreed, in January 2007, to revive the talks, but hopes to clinch a deal ahead of crucial US elections - are waning as hardliners refuse to soften their stance. Some fear talks may collapse completely if a breakthrough is not achieved by then.

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Overview

Time is running out for a multilateral deal on liberalising global trade. The fast-track trade authority granted under the Trade Promotion Act of 2002 (TPA) to US President George W. Bush, allowing him to adopt international trade agreements without Congress altering them, already expired on 1st July 2007.

Without the TPA, the now Democratic and less pro-free trade Congress would have amending power, making it less attractive for other WTO members to participate in a deal as they are unsure of obtaining any real commitments from the US. 

Furthermore, with the US Presidential elections scheduled for November 2008, the likelihood is that, if a global agreement is not concluded by early 2008, the Doha Round would be postponed until after the new US President is instated, and possibly even after European Parliament elections and the nomination of a new European Commission in 2009. 

Despite this time pressure, positions still appear as polarised as ever. Any breakthrough would require the EU and US to agree on the depth of cuts that should be applied to their agricultural tariffs and subsidies. While both sides have lately signalled readiness to soften their stances (EurActiv 08/10/07), this could prove difficult, with France insisting that it will block any agreement in which the EU has to cut average farm tariffs by more than 39% (EurActiv 30/05/07), despite US insistence that no less than a 60% cut would be acceptable.

What's more, the EU and the US are also locking horns with advanced developing countries like Brazil and India, which they insist have to open their markets to more foreign manufactured goods in exchange for more agricultural market access (EurActiv 22/06/07).

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