Top trade officials from the European Union and the United States will meet today in a fresh effort to drive forward stalled talks on a global trade deal.
EU Trade and Agriculture Commissioners, Peter Mandelson and Mariann Fischer Boel will meet their US counterparts, Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, on 1 June 2007, for what the EU says will be a “workmanlike” discussion on reviving the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations.
The talks broke down in July 2006, largely due to bickering between the EU and US on cutting farm tariffs and subsidies. Disagreement with India and Brazil over market access for industrial goods and services also played a role.
Negotiators fear that talks may collapse completely if a breakthrough is not achieved by the summer – the four key players will be holding a series of meetings in the coming months in order to find common ground.
However, the same hardline positions are being maintained. Furthermore, recent threats from newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy to veto any final deal if it is deemed to go against the interests of France’s farming industry, as well as comments from Commissioner Mandelson that the EU would not be willing to clinch a deal “at any price” and may even backtrack on its earlier offers, have cast fresh uncertainty on the chances of achieving a breakthrough (EURACTIV 30/05/07).
In a speech on 31 May, Commission President José Manuel Barroso urged leaders of the major industrialised countries, meeting at the G8 Summit in Germany next week, to send a clear signal of their commitment to a Doha Deal. “We have weeks, not months,” he stressed, while warning that everyone would have to contribute: “Let me be clear. If this is a negotiation in which Europe pays and others do not, there will be no Doha deal,” he said.