WTO's Doha round of talks: R.I.P.

July 24, 2006 at 2:46 PM

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 24 (UPI) -- The World Trade Organization's effort for a global free trade deal appeared dead in Geneva, Switzerland, with African cotton farmers at greatest risk.

After 14 hours of negotiations Sunday, talks reconvened Monday, only to collapse again. That is when WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy refused to schedule any more meetings, effectively ending the Doha negotiations.

U.S. trade negotiator Susan Schwab criticized her European counterparts for the failure, but European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said Washington refused to show flexibility on farm subsidies.

The WTO said Monday that the failure of the talks exposes African cotton farmers to perhaps the greatest risk of all.

"They have been pressing for more ambitious reductions in distortions in the sector," the WTO said in a statement. "More generally, these countries said they had unilaterally liberalized under programs of the World Bank and (International Monetary Fund) only to face increases in subsidized imports from richer countries. They had hoped the (Doha) negotiations would redress the (im)balance.

"'We realize we are now taken hostage by larger developed countries,' one of them said."

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