US accuses Doha dissidents

5 September, 2007

The US has accused South Africa, Argentina, India and Brazil of jeopardising the Doha round of world trade talks by thwarting fresh efforts to reach a deal on cuts to agricultural and industrial tariffs.

Susan Schwab, US trade representative, said a small group of countries had the power to "destroy the Doha round" and cited the four nations as obstacles to progress.

The US is keen to advance quickly with negotiations on the basis of draft agreements advanced by the World Trade Organisation to open markets to farm and manufactured goods. But some WTO members argue that the proposed cuts that poorer nations are asked to make in industrial tariffsare far bigger than the concessions being asked of richer countries on agricultural products, thus undermining the aim of the Doha round to focus on farming as the issue of most concern to developing countries.

President George W. Bush has made reviving the talks his economic priority atthe Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Sydney, which brings together 21 countries that collectively generate half of global trade.

Ministers at the summit of Pacific Rim nations agreed yesterday to accelerate the trade talks, which resumed this week in Geneva.

The Japanese trade minister said the negotiations were entering their final phase and called for convergence, after hearing appeals from Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO.

"We are starting to negotiate," Ms Schwab said, adding she hoped it would be possible to "fill in the blanks" in the draft proposals by early October with specific targets for tariff reductions on the most sensitive products and sectors.

The US hopes the expression of support for the talks from Apec members