GENEVA — World Trade Organization director general Pascale Lamy on Tuesday dismissed the chances of a Turkish proposal to treat textiles and apparel separately from other industrial sectors in the global talks on tariff reductions.
Lamy said the Doha Round of trade talks always was meant to have an inclusive formula for reducing or eliminating global tariffs on a broad array of industrial goods, called Non-Agricultural Market Access, and that introducing separate talks and formulas for one sector “would, in my view, be extremely strange.”
Lamy said he understood the negative reaction of a large part of the WTO membership to the Turkish proposal. U.S. textile groups are supportive of the Turkish move, as are major European industry groups. However, retailer and importer groups on both sides of the Atlantic are strongly against such a carve-out.
China’s WTO ambassador, Sun Zhenyu, told a session of the Trade Negotiations Committee, which oversees the Doha talks, that the Turkish initiative “is not helpful and it’s a recipe for failure in the round,” according to trade officials.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said, “Turkey’s proposal has initiated a discussion that WTO members need to have about this important issue. We are reviewing the proposal carefully. But since it is not a fully detailed proposal, it would be premature to take a position on it.
“Textiles and clothing trade is of great importance for the export economies of many in the developing world. It is for this reason that the U.S. believes that this is a discussion that must be lead by the developing world, and that is why we appreciate Turkey’s initiative in submitting its proposal and we are open to the ideas that others may have on this important sector.”
Countries that welcomed the Turkish move, announced last week, included Tunisia, Jordan, El Salvador, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he expects more than 10 new countries from the Americas and Africa “to join us in the coming days.” However, major developing country exporters such as India, Pakistan and China are strongly against the plan.
Lamy warned that any attempt to back load the decision on modalities for agriculture and industrial goods “is, in my view, a recipe for failure,” but added, “I believe the picture of what a final deal could look like is starting to appear.”
Lamy is slated to attend a meeting this weekend in Rio de Janeiro with Portman, European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and Brazil Foreign Minister Celso Amorim in an apparent attempt to strike a deal.