12 enero 2010


Published by France Press-Yahoo! News

Brussels (AFP) – Would-be new European trade chief Karel De Gucht expressed confidence on Tuesday that a deal to free up international commerce is attainable by next year.

"I am personally confident that we are going to conclude the Doha round," De Gucht told European parliament lawmakers during a question-and-answer confirmation hearing in Brussels.

"I don't know if it will be in 2010 or 2011, but I am quite confident."
The Doha round began in 2001, with a focus on dismantling obstacles to trade for poor nations by striking an accord that will cut agriculture subsidies and tariffs on industrial goods.

Deadlines to conclude the talks have been repeatedly missed.

Discussions have been dogged by disagreements on issues including how much the US and the EU should reduce aid to their farmers and the extent to which developing countries such as India, China and South Africa should cut tariffs.

"We have to do that deal," De Gucht added, refusing to concede that the terms of the talks had to change to take account of the aftermath of the global economic crisis.

"Compared with other international organisations, the WTO is the most advanced model of global governance that exists and we must continue to invest political capital in it," he also said in his opening remarks.
The Belgian, who is switching from development to the trade portfolio provided the parliament does not block the new European Commission nominees, warned that there are "still some basic differences of opinion on some topics, most notably agriculture."

But he said the oft-stalled discussions had been "conceived as a development round" and would "also have a development outcome," although he ruled out calls for the agenda to be widened to tackle broader climate-change issues.

"The trade components can be discussed by the WTO," he said. "But it is also important that (the talks) stay focused.

"WTO chief Pascal Lamy has admitted that a deal is uncertain amid "pressure for protectionist actions" ahead of a "crunch time meeting" in the first three months of this year.