Stalled talks need a push

Updated: 2011-12-09 10:18

By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)

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Who is to blame?

Officials and experts at home and abroad have been pointing the finger at the US for postponing the talks.

The president of the World Bank Group, Robert Zoellick, has openly criticized the Obama administration for failing to provide leadership in the Doha Round and for adopting a defensive stance that has helped stall the discussions.

"If (US) negotiators wait for the US Congress to tell them it's OK to close a deal, they'll wait for a long time," said Zoellick, a US trade representative under former president George W Bush.

"Congress thinks that the executive branch (the Obama administration) is supposed to carry that load."

On Sept 23, India's Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said that Doha Round is "stuck".

"One thing is clear: It will not be possible to conclude the Doha Round by the end of 2011. It is also crystal clear that it will not be possible to strike a trade deal during 2012, because one country will be going through a very long, drawn-out election at that time," said Khullar, referring to the US presidential election.

However, some Chinese experts say that the US itself can never accept that analysis, and takes it for granted that the developing nations, including China, should be held responsible for the Doha Round failure.

"One thing is clear: What we are doing today in the Doha negotiations is not working. That is not a value statement, but a simple assessment of the facts. After 10 years, we're deadlocked," said Michael Punke, the US ambassador to the WTO.

The US believes that the major emerging economies should make more generous offers on concessions to reflect their tremendous export growth over the past decade, Punke said, without referring to China, India and Brazil by name.

China's role

"As a key member of the developing nations' club, China has been actively involved in and pushing the Doha talks. No one can deny or distort what China has contributed during the past decade," said Shen Danyang, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce, in response to critical comments from some developed economies.

"China would make a 100 percent effort as long as there is as much as a 1 percent chance of advancing the talks ... but the major point is that we must not blame, but cooperate with, each other," he said.

As part of the Doha negotiations, China has promised no subsidies for agricultural exports and no duties on 95 percent of imports from the least-developed countries.

China has also sharply reduced tariff duties on non-agricultural products since its 2001 entry into the WTO. The figure has fallen to 8.9 percent on average and the rate could probably fall to 6 percent if there were a successful conclusion to the Doha negotiations, said Chen Deming, China's minister of commerce.

A few nations are taking a "narrow-minded" approach to the negotiations, which is making Doha progress slow and with difficulty, said Gu Yongjiang, China's former vice-minister of commerce.

If the larger nations had been as bold and generous as China in making compromises, the talks would have been concluded many years ago, he said.