Mandelson urges return to negotiating table

Trade commissioner believes EU leaders must immediately grab the “narrow window of opportunity” to conclude the Doha Round before the July 2007 expiry of the US Trade Promotion Act.

Meeting with his Indian counterpart, EU trade chief Peter Mandelson said the time was right to get the WTO engine turning again, now that new ministers are in place in Australia and Japan and that the US and Brazilian elections are over – thereby loosening the “political armlock on negotiators”. 

Urging leaders to “take up where we left off”, he said that the proposal of the G20 group of developing countries would be the key to reaching an agreement: “Aiming below the target zone of what the G20 is proposing is not ambitious enough. Bidding for more would commit us to failure,” he said, adding: “Every key player will need to show new commitment and real flexibility.” 

Nevertheless, Mandelson’s strategy for relaunching negotiations would be based more on convincing others that what was on the table in July would be “massively, massively” better than having no deal at all, rather than on offering further concessions on behalf of the EU. 

Although in his speech Mandelson pledged “to improve [the EU’s] farm-tariff offer by adding substantially [10%] to the 39% it offered a year ago”, this is exactly the same offer that was on the table before talks were suspended in July (EURACTIV 25 July 2006). Although this offer was within close reach of the cuts demanded by developing countries, it was judged largely insufficient by the US.

The alternative, cautioned the commissioner, is “a large blank sheet with no gains written on it at all”. 

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