30 Jul 2008

Collapse of talks will hurt agricultural exporters most - envoy

9:25 pm on 30 July 2008

New Zealand's agricultural exporters will be hurt most by the latest breakdown in the Doha round of world trade talks in Geneva, says the country's agricultural trade envoy, Alistair Polson.

The talks collapsed after India, China and the United States refused to compromise over a safeguard mechanism to protect farmers in developing countries.

Mr Polson says the breakdown means a continuation of the status quo, which is unsatisfactory for exporters.

Nevertheless, Mr Polson says 19 out of 20 remaining issues have been resolved.

Meat & Wool New Zealand has expressed bitter disappointment over the collapse.

National Party trade spokesperson Tim Groser remains confident agreement will be reached.

Mr Groser, who chaired the agricultural negotiations at the World Trade Organisation before becoming an MP, he is absolutely certain the Doha round of talks will eventually lead to a deal. He says talks are unlikely to resume before late next year.

Trade Minister Phil Goff says the collapse is disappointing after talks got so close to clinching a deal. The Doha round of talks began in 2001.

Former trade negotiator Charles Finny expects talks will resume after the United States presidential elections. Mr Finny, chief executive of the Regional Chamber of Commerce, says talks ran further than he expected, though he was surprised talks collapsed on the question of special safeguard mechanisms for agriculture.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean says the collapse of the talks is a huge setback for the world economy.

Mr Crean says it was unfortunate that some countries could not overcome domestic concerns for the greater good.

Trade ministers from 35 countries had gone to Geneva in a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement this year.

But World Trade Organisation head Pascal Lamy confirmed the collapse of the talks, which officials have blamed on China, India and the United States for failing to agree on import rules.