3 Dec 2008

Groser confident about trade meeting

2:23 pm on 3 December 2008

Trade Minister Tim Groser is confident that floundering world trade talks can be resurrected by a ministerial meeting in Geneva before Christmas.

Reports from the World Trade Organisation range from optimistic to pessimistic about the prospects of a ministerial meeting being able to break the impasse in the negotiations.

WTO director-general Pascal Lamy has said he hoped to call a meeting of trade ministers within two weeks.

Mr Groser, who plans to go to Geneva after attending climate change negotiations in Poland next week, said he was confident the talks will proceed.

He said the so-called failed ministerial talks in July had in fact narrowed the differences between countries.

Mr Groser hopes a ministerial meeting this month could actually reach agreement on the framework of a deal.

He said that would then pave the way for countries to negotiate the specific commitments they would make on trade under the agreed framework.

Warning to US president

In the United States, four senior lawmakers have warned outgoing president George Bush against rushing during his final weeks in office to reach a trade agreement that could end up being rejected by Congress.

The bipartisan group said in a letter to Mr Bush they "have strong doubts that a ministerial meeting at this time can achieve the breakthrough that actually provides the new trade flows needed to spur the global economy."

American farm and business groups are nervous the White House could settle for a deal requiring the US to cut farm subsidies and tariffs on certain agricultural and manufactured goods without major developing countries like China and India opening their markets in return.