Davos, Switzerland: Two dozen trade ministers met Saturday
to review progress on finishing the Doha round after seven major trading powers
agreed to push for a deal in the decade-old talks by July.
The trade ministers` lunch, a traditional fixture hosted by the Swiss
government on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, is taking
place as World Trade Organization members intensify efforts to finally clinch a
Negotiators at WTO headquarters in Geneva, who have stepped up the pace of
talks in recent weeks, have been waiting for ministers in Davos to give a clear
signal that they should make the necessary concessions, compromises and
Seven key players agreed Friday to do just that and push for an outline
agreement by the summer.
"Everybody agrees we should try to do this for July," EU Trade Commissioner
Karel De Gucht told reporters late Friday.
"We don`t have an agreement tonight -- you have an agreement when you have
an agreement. But everybody has engaged to do this," he said, speaking
after the EU hosted a dinner for ministers from Australia, Brazil, China,
India, Japan and the United States. Leaders of the G20 summit called in Seoul
last year for a deal and said 2011 represented a window of opportunity, which
many negotiators and economists believe could be the last.
The talks have staggered on since their launch in late 2001 to open world
markets and help poor countries benefit from trade.
But officials say there is a new sense of hope this time.
Trade is moving up the agenda in the United States as President Barack Obama`s
administration prepares to take free-trade pacts with South Korea and Colombia
Washington is calling on the big emerging countries like China, India and
Brazil to open their markets more to foreign -- including American --
businesses as a reflection of their growing economic clout.
The emerging economies argue that the deal is largely in place, based on the
last intensive spate of negotiations in 2008, and if Washington wants more it
must pay with further concessions of its own. But behind the public posturing
is a clear recognition that the final phase of talks will require give and take
The question now is whether everyone can make the concessions that will allow
their partners to sell a deal to their voters.