Developing Nations Can Influence Global Trade Talks, USTR Says

By Susan Krause
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - Developing countries have an opportunity to play a significant leadership role in the Doha round, the current multilateral trade talks being conducted under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), says U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Susan Schwab.

Schwab was in India April 12 for meetings of trade ministers from key WTO member nations. Ministers from Brazil, India, the European Union, and the United States - together referred to as the "Group of Four" or G-4 - met first. They were to be joined later by representatives from Australia and Japan, rounding out the so-called "Group of Six."

Schwab told reporters that the G-4 exists “because Brazil and India have a place at the table that is equal to the U.S. and EU."

Expanding trade between developed industrial countries and developing countries will not fulfill the promise of the Doha Development Agenda framework agreement, Schwab said. Rather, she said, trade must increase among developing countries to generate global economic development and alleviate poverty.

High tariffs imposed by developing countries have thwarted that goal, Schwab said. She pointed out that the United States and the European Union have average agricultural tariffs of 12 percent and 24 percent, respectively, but the average global tariff for agricultural products is 62 percent, mostly because of the high tariffs of developing countries.

“North-South trade clearly is fundamental to the Doha round,” Schwab said. “But South-South trade is also an important component to the Doha round. And there you get to the question, what obligation if any does India or Brazil or China feel for other developing countries?"

Schwab urged the more advanced developing countries to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities available to them in the trade talks.

"It's a new world in terms of trade negotiations and it's very exciting," she said. Developing countries no longer must wait on the sidelines for the developed countries to "cut a deal among themselves," she said.

But the leadership opportunities come with obligations as well, she said, urging advanced developing countries to "lead by example."

Schwab said the United States has "made it very clear that we are prepared to undertake serious cuts in our trade-distorting domestic support in the context of a ... successful Doha agreement that includes significant new market access."

She said she thought the trade ministers had brought a "sense of momentum" to the G-4 meeting, the first formal gathering of the group in several months.

"[M]y colleagues and I arrived here with a positive attitude and a desire to really make some progress," she said. But, she cautioned, "We are not expecting a breakthrough here, because this is really a stock-taking meeting."

Nonetheless, Schwab said she hoped the gatherings also would reflect an increased "sense of urgency" about moving ahead with the trade talks.

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