Little Progress Seen In Geneva, But U.S. Says It Remains Committed To Trade Talks

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns pledged continued U.S. commitment at the conclusion of the WTO meetings in Geneva. The meetings, aimed at breaking the current deadlock, concluded without a resolution.

"We remain fully committed to an ambitious, robust round that opens new markets for the world's farmers, manufacturers and service providers," said Schwab. "This is the only way to deliver on the Doha promise as a development round. We have no intention of giving up hope."

According to Johanns, the major task was to agree on how to deliver on the Doha mandate to “substantially improve” market access in agriculture through reform and by reducing barriers to industrial goods.

The U.S. participated in several days of WTO negotiations, which included bilateral and small group meetings. Schwab and Johanns described the situation as “serious, but not beyond hope.”

More than 60 ministers came together in Geneva after months of failed discussions and missed deadlines, but conceded on Saturday that their efforts had yielded no progress.

''Bad news this weekend,'' said Malloch Brown, who was in Geneva to issue a status report on a series of targets set out by the United Nations in 2000 to spur development and reduce poverty and hunger worldwide.

He said the overall prognosis for the so-called Millennium Development Goals was not as bleak as feared, citing better progress in parts of Asia, even while conceding difficulties in sub-Saharan Africa and slow improvement in Latin America.

But he said the failure of trading powers to hammer out a new global commerce pact would be a setback to succeeding in meeting the benchmarks by 2015.

''The statistics speak for themselves, countries that are integrated into the world economy grow faster than those that are not,'' Malloch Brown said. ''This was a very bad weekend for those goals.''

World leaders including U.S. President George W. Bush have pledged their commitment to the trade talks, but most countries in Geneva rigidly stuck to the same positions they have maintained for months.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy y had told ministers at the start of the weekend talks that a failure to face the ''moment of truth'' would cost the global economy billions of dollars (euros) in lost revenue.

The talks are set to begin again at another ministerial gathering in Geneva at the end of this month and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it was not too late to reach a deal.

''We still believe it's possible if all parties, the United States, the G-20 (group of emerging trade powers) as well, will make some efforts,'' Barroso said in Helsinki after meeting with Finnish President Tarja Halonen, whose country took over the EU presidency on Saturday.

The complex talks have stalled as poorer countries demand the 25-nation European Union and United States offer greater cutbacks in support for American and European farmers. The U.S. and EU in turn want major developing countries like Brazil and India to allow more foreign competition for their industrial and services sectors.

Sniping between the EU and U.S. has also held up the talks, which is already two years behind schedule.

Only Brussels indicated some flexibility last week, but maintained that deeper cuts on its farm tariffs were dependent on reciprocal moves from the U.S. and leading developing countries.

''We will not move unilaterally,'' said Peter Power, spokesman for EU trade chief Peter Mandelson. ''We will not table anything until such time as we have the clearest indications that our negotiating partners will respond in the way that would justify a European move.''

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

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