WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States hopes a meeting of trade ministers this week in New Delhi will help push long-running world trade talks to a successful conclusion, the top U.S. trade official said on Tuesday.
“I think this week’s ministerial can be a very important step toward our goal of the successful conclusion of the Doha round,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters before leaving for the talks.
The aim of the September 3-4 meeting, according to host India, is to “re-energize” the nearly 8-year-old Doha talks and set a timetable for wrapping them up.
“I think we all share in the joint conviction and belief that completing the Doha round can be a key element to helping the world recover from this current economic crisis,” Kirk said, referring to countries attending this week’s talks.
The roster includes the five biggest players in the round -- the United States, the EU, Brazil, India and China -- as well as other key World Trade Organization members.
Under the most optimistic scenario, a successful meeting in New Delhi could set the stage for further progress at the G20 leaders summit September 24-25 in Pittsburgh and at a broader WTO ministerial meeting later this year in Geneva.
“The window between now and our ministerial of the WTO later this fall is a critical time for those of us committed to the success of Doha,” Kirk said.
This week’s gathering is the first major meeting of trade ministers on the Doha round since July 2008, when nine days of intense negotiations ended in failure.
U.S. business groups are also crossing their fingers the New Delhi talks could breathe new life into the round.
But they say that depends on major developing countries like Brazil, India and China making better offers in the negotiations to open their markets to more foreign goods.
“If this is a testing of ambition for what comes later this fall, then it’s a very important meeting,” said Doug Goudie, director for international trade policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.
“The whole thing for us is that a Doha agreement needs to generate new trade flows,” Goudie said.
Echoing that sentiment, Kirk said the United States was serious about completing Doha but needed more “clarity” about what new export opportunities it would gain in exchange for cutting its own farm subsidies and tariffs.
Kirk said he discussed the New Delhi meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during a game of golf on Monday, and he expected Obama “will have more to say about the role trade will play in our overall economic recovery some time between now and the G20 summit.”
However, aides said Kirk was not referring to a much-anticipated speech that Obama has been expected to give since May laying out his vision for trade.
On another issue, Kirk said he hoped Obama would soon announce his nomination to replace longtime U.S. trade diplomat Peter Allgeier, who has stepped down as ambassador to the WTO.
Allgeier was a “wonderful colleague ... (who) will be sorely missed,” but the United States does not think his departure has to slow down work on the round, Kirk said.
Reporting by Doug Palmer and Roberta Rampton; editing by Doina Chiacu and Cynthia Osterman