World Bank president Robert Zoellick yesterday urged trade ministers to push for a breakthrough in this week’s World Trade Organization talks, saying it was “now or never” to reach a deal.
Zoellick said progress on agricultural issues in the meeting opening in Geneva today would bolster confidence in a world economy strained by soaring food and energy prices and a financial crisis. “It has never been more important for WTO members to move forward on the Doha Development Agenda,” he said in a statement before the talks, which will focus on tariff and subsidy cuts.
“It is now or never,” said Zoellick, who as former American trade representative helped launch the Doha trade round in 2001. He said an open and fair trading system would give farmers in developing countries a reason to expand production. Consumers would benefit from lower prices and governments could save on the costs of subsidies and improve their budgets.
Trade minister from dozens of countries will try to achieve to break the deadlock in the long-delayed Doha trade round.
Developing countries are pushing rich nations to open their markets by cutting tariffs, arguing that trade distorting subsidies squeeze out farmers from poor countries. The outstanding issues in the agricultural and manufactured goods talks have been whittled down to about 30 from 200 in May. “Both developing and developed economies stand to gain from lower barriers to goods and agriculture,” Zoellick urged. “There are also great opportunities to expand trade among developing economies.”