Diplomats from the World Trade Organization's 159 members had been
trying to forge an agreement before a trade ministers' meeting next
week in Bali, Indonesia. Achieving a deal in Bali is seen as a final
effort to revive a broader 12-year effort to ease global trade
The mini-deal discussed in Geneva had been intended, in part, to
reduce delays and inefficiencies at national borders. Making it
easier to move goods across borders could boost the global economy
by nearly $1 trillion a year and support 21 million jobs, according
to a report co-written by Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow in
international trade at the Peterson Institute for International
The lack of a global deal hasn't prevented individual countries from
seeking agreements among themselves. But experts say the failure to
reach a global deal leaves poorer countries worse off.
"This should be a no-brainer for developed and developing
countries," Schott said.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke expressed "a great
deal of sadness" over the failure in Geneva.
"We're worried — alongside so many in this room — that a
once-in-a-generation opportunity may have slipped our grasp," Punke
Schott said he's hopeful that negotiators will salvage the deal in
Bali and restore the efforts to achieve a broader trade agreement.
"If this small test can't be passed, there's very little reason for
confidence" negotiators will ever reach the broader agreement,
Some poor countries are demanding economic and technical assistance
before they sign on. India is holding up a deal by insisting on
protections for its farmers.
The WTO chief, Roberto Azevedo, said so much disagreement remains
that several more weeks of negotiations cannot bridge the gaps.
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"Holding negotiations in the short time we'll have in Bali would be
simply impractical with over 100 ministers around the table,"
Negotiations toward a broader global trade deal began in Qatar in
2001, and the agonizing pace of talks frustrated Azevedo's
predecessor, Pascal Lamy.
Still, some developed countries are seeking to reach side deals. The
European Union, for example, has signed free-trade pacts with South
Korea and Canada. The EU is also holding separate talks with the
United States and Japan.
But Azevedo said the failure to reach a global deal particularly
hurts poorer countries.
It also hurts the WTO's credibility. Azevedo said he worries that
the WTO will be seen only as a trade court and no longer as a forum
for governments to negotiate trade agreements.
"We will fail not only the WTO and multilateralism," he said. "We
will also fail our constituencies at large, the business community
and, above all, the vulnerable among us. We will fail the poor
Press; JOHN HEILPRIN]
AP Economics Writer Paul
Wiseman in Washington contributed to this report.
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