GENEVA — Major trading powers, spearheaded by the U.S., the European Union and Brazil, are gearing up to revive the stalled Doha global trade talks by kicking off a series of high-level meetings here starting Wednesday.

Paralysis has gripped the talks since the collapse of the Cancún trade summit in September.

Robert Zoellick, U.S. Trade Representative, started the ball rolling on Jan. 11 with a six-page letter to WTO trade ministers, in which he said, “I do not want 2004 to be a lost year for the WTO negotiations.”

On Wednesday, Zoellick will begin a two-week trip to meet with world trade officials.

In a similar vein, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy recently said, “Real progress in 2004 is possible if the members are ready to achieve this,” despite political distractions ahead, including elections in India, Canada, the U.S. and the European Parliament.

Toufiq Ali, Bangladesh’s WTO ambassador, said Zoellick’s letter “has been received very positively and should provide an impetus to the negotiations. The EU, as well, has shown an interest to engage meaningfully in the negotiation.”

The South Asian envoy said he is hopeful the negotiations will “begin soon.”

In order to inject momentum, WTO director general Supachai Panitchpakdi is expected to oversee the resumption of the so-called Doha Round talks “more closely,” taking a more active role in direct negotiations, a senior WTO diplomat said.

The Cancún collapse occurred after a group of 20 developing nations walked out of the talks, complaining that their concerns about rich nations’ agricultural subsidies were being ignored. The U.S. and EU have since taken steps to narrow the rich-poor divide, including signaling a more flexible stance on agriculture.

“There clearly is now a will to do it,” said David Hartridge, director and senior WTO counselor and?trade counselor, White & Case. “In the autumn, the U.S. and the EU were both silent. Now, both have got positions on the table. Both are pressing and are being helpful. They are back fully in the game.”

Hartridge, a former senior WTO official, said agriculture is still the essence of the round and a major problem that needs to be resolved if there is to be a successful outcome.The emergence of the powerful G20group of developing nations, led by Brazil and including South Africa, China and India, has made agriculture the epicenter of the round.

Zoellick has said, “My assessment is that we will need to achieve a more concrete understanding in agriculture before the negotiations on market access for manufactured goods can move ahead.”

In “mandatory” sectoral negotiations to remove all duties on items such as textiles, clothing and footwear, Zoellick has suggested the U.S. is prepared to be flexible vis-à-vis poorer and less-developed nations.

Officially the Doha talks still face a Jan. 1, 2005, deadline. That date is coincidentally the date the WTO members are set to drop their quotas on textiles and apparel, but that move was agreed to by negotiators a decade ago.

The broad consensus among trade negotiators and experts is that the current round most likely will not finish on time, but will require another year or two.

“It is impossible to finish the round on time, but no one wants to admit it,” said John Weekes, Canada’s former ambassador to the WTO and his country’s chief trade negotiator in NAFTA.

The objective of the resumed talks is to try and agree on a framework for agriculture by midyear and on an outline on the details of specific concessions by the end of 2004.

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