USTR Says Other Nations Must 'Compromise' Or WTO Meeting in Doha Could End in Failure
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said Oct. 30 that other countries need to "cooperate and compromise," or the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization, set to begin next week, could end in failure. "The last stages of our work [in the run-up to the meeting] will prove most difficult," he said. "I do not know whether we will succeed."
Zoellick said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that the United States continues to hope for a decision at the WTO meeting--to be held in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 9-13--to launch a new round of global trade talks. But he said that "if the WTO falters," the United States will turn to regional or country-by-country negotiations.
"Given the size and innovation of the U.S. economy," he said, "we can be an attractive partner for others who seek to liberalize trade."
Zoellick singled out for special criticism in the preparations for Doha the government of Japan, which, he said, has been completely unhelpful, particularly in the area of agriculture.
"I've been extremely disappointed," he said.
Zoellick said that Japan's failure to be more engaged in the WTO process reflects what he called a "paralysis" in the governmental bureaucracy.
"There is a paralysis in Japan," he said. "It is a serious problem."
He said that agriculture will be key to whether new WTO trade talks will succeed, and Japan has said "no to everything in the process, and that won't work."
"It is frankly a disappointment for a country who was able to grow and develop through international trade ... to be acting in such a narrow-minded fashion," Zoellick said.
Zoellick also said that the United States will oppose the latest proposal put forward by WTO General Council Chairman Stuart Harbinson that would have the WTO negotiate new rules on antidumping measures and subsidies.
The Harbinson proposal, released last weekend, calls for WTO negotiations aimed at clarifying and improving WTO disciplines on the use of antidumping and countervailing measures. But Zoellick called the proposal "unclear."
"Given America's relative openness," Zoellick said, "we can only maintain domestic support for trade if we retain strong, effective laws against unfair practices. ... So we will continue to insist that any consideration of WTO rules focus on getting the practices of others up to U.S. standards so that American businesses and workers can compete on a level playing field."
Zoellick said that some businesses cannot move as quickly as global financial and information markets. "So we do need to have effective safeguard provisions that help industries if they are willing to take serious steps to regain competitiveness within defined and limited periods of adjustment," he said.
The chief U.S. trade negotiator--who will be traveling to Doha next week with a scaled-back U.S. delegation that will include Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman--was also implicitly critical of the proposal being championed by some developing countries in the run-up to Doha for dealing with intellectual property protection.
Zoellick said that the United States was implementing a "flexible" policy on intellectual property as it relates to medicines for treating HIV/AIDS and other pandemics--proposing recently, for example, granting least developed countries a 10-year extension (until 2016) for coming into full compliance with all pharmaceutical-related obligations under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
The United States has also proposed, he said, a moratorium of at least five years on WTO challenges to the actions of sub-Saharan African countries as they seek to respond to HIV/AIDS, infections related to AIDS, and other health crises such as malaria and tuberculosis.
But developing countries led by Brazil and India have been supporting language in the so-called Harbinson texts, which would set the broad agenda for new WTO trade talks, that would allow countries to take any measures to protect public health--including, the United States argues, overriding the patents of Western drug manufacturers to lower the price of medicines used to treat AIDS and other illnesses in developing countries.
Zoellick said that developing countries will nevertheless have much to say about whether WTO member countries agree in Doha to launch new trade talks, noting that they currently represent 80 percent of the membership of the organization.
"As much as developing countries may need debt relief and development aid," Zoellick said, "a prerequisite for their long-term economic growth is full participation with the global economy and trading system. Doha is the best opportunity we will have in the next 10-15 years to expedite this integration. It is an opportunity neither we nor the developing world can afford to miss," he said.