Ending the deadlock in the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks depends on how successfully negotiators can balance their competing interests, plus a measure of luck, the WTO chief suggested Thursday.
“That’s the secret of the negotiation,” WTO Director General Pascal Lamy told an audience at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo when asked who will have to make the biggest concessions, and in which sector, in order to successfully conclude the talks.
Referring to the arduous talks, he said the offers are on the table are not satisfactory and “these players will have to top up their offers.”
Earlier in the day, Lamy met separately with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, stressing the importance of promoting capacity-building to help developing countries expand their trade, among other issues.
Koizumi told Lamy that Japanese farmers need to play offense as well as defense, hinting at a change in Japan’s protectionist policies for politically sensitive agricultural products, including rice, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Abe pledged that Japan would work continuously for a successful conclusion of the Doha round. In reply, the WTO chief acknowledged the difficulty of maintaining a diverse agricultural sector, the ministry said.
The round hit a major snag after six key WTO players failed to resolve an impasse over reductions in domestic farm subsidies and tariffs on agricultural and industrial items during intensive talks last week in Geneva.
Afterward, WTO members agreed to ask Lamy to try to reconcile the interests of influential economies. Japan is the director general’s first stop on a diplomatic tour that he hopes will help him broker a deal.
Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Japan Alexander Loshukov said Thursday that although there was a proposal to discuss how to move the WTO talks forward at the July 15-17 Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, the United States rejected it.
Washington faced a barrage of criticism in Geneva as it ignored other parties’ calls for deeper reductions in its domestic farm subsidies, according to negotiators.
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