Rich countries must make unilateral concessions to spur on marathon world trade talks or call a halt to the negotiations if they are going nowhere, British legislators said.
Parliament’s International Development Committee said World Trade Organization (WTO) members needed to show political will to reach a deal in the Doha round of trade talks, which have made slow progress since being launched six years ago.
“Developed countries should reinvigorate the process with unilateral moves or draw the process to a close if it is irretrievably moribund,” the committee, chaired by an opposition Liberal Democrat and including members of Britain’s three main political parties, said in a report.
“The government should continue to make the case for unilateral moves with other EU (European Union) member states,” the report said.
“We encourage the UK, EU and all negotiators to approach Doha with sufficient flexibility to succeed.”
WTO members agreed to aim to finish the Doha talks next year.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last month he hoped for agreement on a new world trade deal within weeks.
The main sticking point is over agriculture, with countries such as India and Brazil waiting to see by how much the United States will cut farm subsidies and how much other rich countries will open their farm markets by cutting agricultural tariffs.
Only then will developing nations say by how much they will open their markets for industrial goods to imports from rich countries.
The British lawmakers also warned that time was running out for talks between the EU and developing countries on new Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
Brussels wants to sign EPAs with nearly 80 former European colonies in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region.
Negotiations were launched more than five years ago and the EU says the new deals must be in place by Dec. 31.
That is the expiry date of a WTO waiver that has allowed existing EU preferential trade deals with the ACP group to continue, despite being ruled illegal by the WTO.
With no deal, ACP countries would face higher tariffs for their goods entering Europe from Jan. 1.
Five East African countries reached a deal with the EU on trade in goods and fisheries last week, leaving negotiations on services and investment for later.
But the parliamentary committee said some other countries “will simply not be ready to reach even a goods-only EPA deal by the end of the year.” (Reuters)