By  on July 25, 2006

WASHINGTON — Global trade talks started in 2001 with the aim of opening markets broke down on Monday and there appeared to be little chance they would soon resume.

The negotiations had the potential to lower tariffs on apparel and textiles and open foreign markets to retailers. They might also have exposed U.S. textile producers to greater foreign competition.

Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organi­zation, formally suspended the negotiations that began in Doha, Qatar. The decision came after a 14-hour, last-ditch effort in Geneva to reach an agreement failed and a week after President Bush and other world leaders at a St. Petersburg summit urged concessions to break the deadlock.

The top U.S. negotiators, Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Agriculture Secre­tary Mike Johanns, decried the collapse of discussions to reach an accord over farm trade barriers and tariffs with ministers from the European Union, Japan, Brazil, India and Australia, touching off accusations from all sides.

"We have missed a very important opportunity to show that multilateralism works," Lamy told reporters in Geneva.

Schwab said the U.S. trade delegation went to Geneva ready to sweeten the agricultural proposal outlined in October, but did not see reciprocal movement from other countries. She described the breakdown as a "serious failure."

During a conference call with reporters, Schwab said: "It was evident from the conversation that the new trade flows were not going to be forthcoming and that we were not going to meet the promise of Doha in terms of alleviating poverty and generating global economic growth and development."

The trade ministers were trying to hammer out a framework agreement that would lead to a larger deal by the end of the year to remove barriers to trade in agricultural and industrial goods, as well as services. The Doha talks were intended to increase global commerce and help lift the poorest nations out of poverty by allowing them to expand their exports. The wealthy nations were to gain more access to poorer countries for their goods and services.

"This is neither desirable nor inevitable," EU Trade Commis­sioner Peter Mandelson said in a statement. "It could so easily have been avoided....The United States was unwilling to accept, or indeed to acknowledge, the flexibility being shown by others in the room and, as a result, felt unable to show any flexibility on the issue of farm subsidies."

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