The Hong Kong trade summit in December must reach concrete deals on key issues if a final global market-opening agreement is to be reached by the end of 2006 in the Doha liberalization talks, senior diplomats said.
GENEVA — The Hong Kong trade summit in December must reach concrete deals on key issues if a final global market-opening agreement is to be reached by the end of 2006 in the Doha liberalization talks, senior diplomats said.
"We have to conclude the round by the end of 2006," said an ambassador from a large Asian country. "If not, we're in trouble. We have to have an outcome in Hong Kong."
Some senior World Trade Organization trade diplomats estimate that if the talks don't close next year on a successful note, the round, as one put it, "could run into the sand and get ditched."
The summit's key goal "is to define the blueprint for the end game," said Crawford Falconer, New Zealand's ambassador to the WTO and chairman of the politically sensitive agriculture segment of the talks.
A successful outcome in the WTO-sponsored talks launched in November 2001 would help lower barriers to international commercial flows worth nearly $11 trillion in 2004. The last Doha Round summit — held in Cancún, Mexico, in September 2003 — collapsed because of differences between rich and poor nations, mainly over farm trade.
A framework agreement brokered in July 2004 in Geneva managed to salvage the talks, but lingering differences over agriculture and a long list of other issues has prevented the negotiations from picking up momentum in most areas.
Negotiators are seeking to finalize by the Hong Kong meeting modalities or blueprints that will provide the parameters for negotiators to hammer out final deals next year, in particular on agriculture and trade in industrial goods. They would include numerical targets, dates and formulas for slashing tariffs and subsidies.
Coming up with results to meet the concerns of West African cotton producers over trade-distorting subsidies is also high on the agenda. Progress in other areas — such as trade facilitation aiming to simplify customs clearance procedures and on revision of global rules on antidumping, subsidies and countervailing duty measures, as well as coming up with enhanced market opening offers in commercial services — also is viewed as crucial for things to fall in place at the summit.
"We should have something close to full modalities in Hong Kong," said Carlo Trojan, the European Union ambassador to the WTO.
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