GENEVA — U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said here Tuesday that the renewed commitment by G8 leaders on the stalled global trade talks could provide the needed impetus to reach an accord.
“The sense of resolve could translate into the breakthrough we have been looking for months for,” she told reporters.
Trade ministers from the U.S., European Union, Japan, India and Australia are slated to hold talks Saturday and Sunday, and on July 28 and 29 in Geneva with World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy to try and hammer out a broad deal on agricultural and industrial tariffs. The G8 consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.
“We should see the impact of the G8 leaders’ commitment by this weekend,” Schwab said.
The new push emerged after Lamy warned leaders of the major powers meeting in St. Petersburg on Monday that the risk of failure is considerable. Sixty trade ministers in talks at the end of June did not move toward a deal because of differences on how to slash subsidies and tariffs for agricultural products.
The EU is still seen as the most difficult of the G8 members in terms of being flexible in its agricultural market access offer. This is seen as a must by the Bush administration to reach a farm deal, which in turn would help pave the way for a similar accord to cut tariffs on industrial goods, including textiles and apparel.
A senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said no industrial sector is to be excluded from cuts in the so-called non-agricultural market access, or NAMA, segment of the Doha Round.
The Bush administration is still consulting with the domestic textile industry and Congress about how to handle textiles and other sectors such as cotton. Washington is also increasing the pressure on China to do more on opening its market. West African cotton producers, the U.S. official said, could benefit more if China opened up its cotton market by slicing tariffs, which are as high as 40 percent, than by the U.S. reducing cotton subsidies.