WTO chief says US blocking trade deal

The US is the main obstacle to reaching the recently started Doha round of trade negotiations, says Pascal Lamy.

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MANAMA // The US is the main obstacle to concluding the recently restarted Doha round of trade negotiations, says Pascal Lamy, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Speaking yesterday at the Bahrain Global Forum, he said that barring a single issue concerning fishery subsidies, an agreement was largely in place. However, "the United States is seriously attempting to conclude these negotiations on more US terms than are already on the table. We need the US president to take a risk and send a bill to Congress in the hope of getting it through."

The trade negotiations began in November 2001. The objective is to lower trade barriers around the world, which allows countries to increase trade globally. However, they stalled on issues including agriculture export and fisheries subsidies in 2008. Yesterday, Mr Lamy said that agriculture was no longer preventing a deal, barring a few small amendments, and added that the US, EU and Japan had all agreed to drop export subsidies. "We are not 100 per cent there but, politically speaking, most of it is on the table," he said.

In the view of the WTO, a successful conclusion could inject up to US$300 billion (Dh1.1 trillion) a year into the global economy and be completed within six months. "What is needed is a collective understanding by all the clever negotiators that they are at the end game," he said. "The end game is the moment you stop cheating and empty your pockets. That is what is needed for this to conclude." In March, Mr Lamy told the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee: "Although we have made some progress since 2008, there is no denying the fact that we are not where we wanted to be by now."

The UAE has been a member of the WTO since April 1996. The Doha negotiations have been ongoing since 2000. The US has previously said the onus was on India and other emerging markets to revive the eight-year-old trade talks by offering better terms for US exporters. US officials had protested that under the proposals the country would have to drastically reduce agricultural subsidies and manufacturing tariffs in exchange for only limited new opportunities in export markets.

Most other WTO members have argued it was the stubbornness of the US on certain points that was blocking agreement of a deal. * with additional reporting by Tom Arnold rwright@thenational.ae