G8 plus G5 agree to conclude Doha in 2010 – draft
(The following story contains no dateline to protect the sources of the information)
July 7 (Reuters) – G8 leaders plus Brazil, India, China, Mexico and South Africa will agree at a summit on Thursday to conclude the Doha round of world trade talks successfully in 2010, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.
“Leaders commit to reaching an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Doha round in 2010, consistent with its mandate, building on progress already made on modalities,” the draft prepared for Thursday’s meeting of the so-called “G8 plus G5″ said.
The Doha talks have been effectively on ice since a meeting of ministers last July failed to clinch an outline agreement, although Lamy said it had completed 80 percent of a deal.
A separate draft statement to be issued by the Group of Eight industrialised nations — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Canada — on Wednesday will commit to concluding the talks as soon as possible.
But it stops short of setting a date for reaching a deal to boost dwindling trade suffering from the worst economic slump since World War Two.
“This is merely technical. The G8 statement will feed into the G8 plus G5 statement the next day,” a G8 source involved in preparing the summit in the Italian town of L’Aquila told Reuters.
“The G8 alone cannot achieve Doha, they need the agreement of the G5 to have any realistic chance of success and this is why the second day’s statement is so important.”
The Doha round was launched in late 2001 to help poor countries prosper through trade, but in the nearly eight years since then the talks have stumbled repeatedly as trading powers clashed over proposals to cut tariffs and subsidies on goods from food to chemicals.
WTO chief Pascal Lamy said last month that a deal could be clinched in 2010 because the mood of the negotiations had improved since the appointment this year of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and India trade minister Anand Sharma whose countries are seen as key to unlocking a deal.
But Lamy declined to comment on Tuesday on the prospects for a deal being reached in 2010, saying: “I probably will be able to give you a clearer answer to this question on Friday after the G8 and the G8-plus-five discussions on trade.”
Trade ministers meeting on the sidelines of the OECD in June had also hoped the G8 and their G5 partners would agree a detailed timeline for concluding the talks which could be taken to September’s larger and more influential meeting of the Group of G20 industrialised and developing countries in Pittsburgh.
“We instruct relevant ministers to meet before the G20 in Pittsburgh,” the draft said, adding the technical work should start quickly at the WTO in Geneva.
India has already indicated it is willing to host the long-awaited “mini-ministerial” at the beginning of September.
If ministers can agree on substance and provide a binding timeline for the G20 meeting, sources familiar with the negotiations said a further ministerial meeting could be held on the margins of the WTO’s general assembly in December with a view to completing the round in the early part of 2010.
“The U.S. are concerned about mid-term elections for Congress there in the second half of next year,” a source involved in the talks told Reuters.
“There are primaries in the spring, so there could be a window for completion between the primaries and the summer break for fear that the midterms complicate matters.”
President Barack Obama’s Democrats dominate both houses of Congress but usually vote in large number against trade deals, so he would need some Republican votes to get Doha approved.
A spokeswoman for Kirk would not be drawn on any date for concluding the talks.
“Ambassador Kirk has said that the substance of our progress will determine timing, and we’ve been clear that the U.S. is committed to reaching a balanced and ambitious conclusion as soon as possible,” she said.