Doha Round stalled again — take 2

Today, as Ryan Young noted in his post, negotiations collapsed in the ninth day of talks to resuscitate the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round. Irreconcilable differences between the U.S. and India and China on what are called in trade-speak “special safeguard measures” are blamed for the bad ending to this session. SSMs are actions that developing countries can take to raise tariffs on agricultural goods when there in a surge in imports.

In a press statement, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said:

“Regrettably, our negotiations deadlocked on the scope of a safeguard mechanism to remedy surges in imported agricultural products.

“Any safeguard mechanism must distinguish between the legitimate need to address exceptional situations involving sudden and extreme import surges and a mechanism that can be abused.

“In the face of a global food price crisis, we simply could not agree to a result that would raise more barriers to world food trade.

Schwab said that the position of some of the members would have moved the WTO backwards instead of advancing more open trade.

Although some WTO members said the talks should begin again, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said that the breakdown represents a serious setback. Trade analysts aren’t too sanguine about the chances of countries reaching final agreement before the U.S. presidential election. Time is short and the differences are great between powerhouse “developing countries” such as India, China, and Brazil, and the developed world, seeking to gain greater access to those markets.