DAVOS, Switzerland — The leaders of three major trading nations — Germany, the U.K. and Indonesia — said Friday a deal in the Doha Round of global trade talks has to be done this year or it risked drifting aimlessly.
“I really do believe this can be done….This has to be the year,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron, at the World Economic Forum here, where an expert trade report, “The Doha Round: Setting a Deadline, Defining a Final Deal,” was released. “Trade is the biggest wealth creator we have ever known.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the conclusion of the Doha Round “is of the utmost importance. We are literally meters away from the finish line.”
Merkel also endorsed the report, along with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said he “strongly supports” conclusion of the talks by the end of 2011.
The study, compiled by former World Trade Organization director-general Peter Sutherland and other experts, warns that if the round is not completed by the end of this year, “it will best lie in the doldrums for a prolonged period.”
“Such an outcome will be greatly damaging to the global economy,” it concludes, and argues the failure to conclude the talks launched in 2001 in Doha, Qatar, “reflects a failure in global leadership.”
“The state of affairs demands active intervention at the head of government level,” the report states. “It also demands an absolute deadline for the negotiations” be yearend.
G-20 leaders should set the deadline themselves within 2011, it says, “by which the round must be completed or declared a failure. This deadline should be inflexible and bind all players.”
Sutherland, who brokered the historic Uruguay Round trade talks that concluded in 1994 and created the WTO and led to the end of global import quotas, said in an interview: “If there is no political will to close, they have to realize they are facing doomsday. The multilateral system, the credibility of the WTO, is at stake. This round has to be concluded or the rash of bilateralism and ultimately mercantilism gets worse.”
The report estimates that a deal could see global impact and could add about $360 billion to the world economy. However, trade diplomats and experts here said the stance of the G-20, the U.S. and China would be decisive on whether a deal can be brokered this year. As things stand, what is on the table is inadequate, say senior U.S. officials and experts.
“I think it’s doubtful. To say that is very unfortunate, but I just don’t see it happening,” said Stuart Eizenstat, partner and head of international trade and finance at Covington & Burling, and a former deputy secretary of the treasury. “There’s not enough on the table for the U.S., and there’s too much of an impasse between China and Brazil and the others.”
Differences between rich nations, including the U.S. and the European Union, and emerging market powers China, Brazil and India, led to the collapse of the talks in 2003 and again in 2006, 2007 and 2008.