Discussions among World Trade Organization (WTO) members about the stalled Doha Round revealed widely differing views on the best way to salvage the negotiations.
On April 21, WTO Director General Lamy called on the organization's members to rethink the way forward for the negotiations, arguing that continuing with “business as usual” was no longer an option. He then scheduled a round of talks with key delegations, including the United States, to hear views on what is a reasonable expectation for an outcome.
The Doha negotiations experienced a major crisis in late March after the United States told key WTO members that bilateral talks with major developing countries revealed unbridgeable gaps on market access issues. Trade diplomats said that three general views emerged from the most recent talks: 1) members who still believe a Doha deal still can be finalized by year’s end; 2) those who believe there should be a push for a “Doha lite” package with less ambitious outcomes on the market access talks in agriculture, industrial tariffs and services; and 3) those favoring talks focused on achieving an interim deal on rules-based issues at the WTO's December ministerial conference.
Reports indicate that while there are deep differences on the best option for moving forward, nobody is prepared to declare the Round dead. Most believe that completing the negotiations by the end of 2011 — the goal set by the membership late last year — is virtually an impossible goal. Many members also believe that regardless of the strategy pursued, WTO members should be able to agree on some “deliverables” by the December ministerial conference as a confidence-building measure.
Lamy is expected to continue talks on May 16-17 before attending a meeting of trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Big Sky, Mont. He also has scheduled consultations in Geneva on May 23-24 before attending the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ministerial in Paris. He is scheduled to report the consultations’ results and outline the degree of support for each option on advancing the Doha talks to the WTO membership on May 31.