WASHINGTON (Reuters) - World Trade Organization (WTO) members should acknowledge the 10-year-old Doha round of trade talks is “deadlocked” and begin charting a more “credible path forward,” a top U.S. trade official said on Monday.
“One thing is clear: What we are doing today in the Doha negotiations is not working. That is not a value statement, but a simple assessment of the facts. After 10 years, we’re deadlocked,” U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke said at a hearing on his renomination to his current job.
The Doha round was launched in late 2001 with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade.
But members have disagreed over how much rich countries should cut farm subsidies and tariffs on farm and manufactured goods in exchange for developing countries opening their own markets in agriculture, manufacturing and services.
“The first thing that is really critical is that all members of the WTO admit right now that what we’re doing isn’t working,” Punke told the panel.
The main point of disagreement is over how much major developing countries should open their markets, he said without referring to China, India and Brazil by name.
The United States believes that these major emerging economies should make more generous offers that reflect their tremendous growth in exports over the past decade, Punke said.
Punke told the panel he believed “no deal is better than a bad deal,” but some who accuse the United States of lack of leadership in the Doha round hold the opposite view, that a bad deal is better than none.
Talks between now and the WTO’s biennial ministerial meeting in December provide a good opportunity to consider the future for the WTO, he added.
One way to improve chances of a deal would be get away from the current “lowest common denominator” approach, in which countries most reluctant to open their markets dictate the terms on which the talks take place, Punke said.
The United States would favor an approach allowing more ambitious countries to set the pace, he said.
Meanwhile, Chief U.S. Agriculture Negotiator Isi Siddiqui told the panel that talks on Russia’s longtime bid to join the WTO were at a “very sensitive stage.”
The U.S. is pushing in those talks for better market access for its meat products like beef, pork and poultry.
It also is pressing Russia on its domestic agriculture support programs and wants Moscow to pledge to abide by WTO food, animal and plant safety rules when deciding whether to block imports of a particular product, Siddiqui said.
U.S. and EU leaders have expressed hope that Russia will finish its bid to join the WTO by December, but talks with Moscow have already dragged on for years.
Both Punke and Siddiqui are serving under temporary appointments and have to be confirmed by the Senate to continue in their posts beyond the end of the year.
Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler