SASKATOON, Saskatchewan, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Attempts by the World Trade Organisation to broker a sweeping liberalization of world trade won't succeed without a new approach at December's WTO meetings in Geneva, a U.S. trade official said on Thursday.
Ambassador Michael Punke, speaking to the Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries in the Western Canadian province of Saskatchewan, said WTO countries should admit the 10-year-old Doha round of talks hasn't worked.
"For us, it is clear that what WTO members are doing today in the Doha negotiations - indeed what we have been doing for at least the past three years - is not working," Punke, the deputy United States trade representative said.
"In the weeks between now and December, the United States will be highly skeptical of any proposal that assumes we can fix our problems by rearranging the deck chairs," he said.
The Doha Round of WTO negotiations began in 2001 with the aim of reforming international trade by lowering trade barriers and revising trade rules.
However, the negotiations have become bogged down as participating countries have been unable to agree on ways to achieve that.
The Cairns Group, consisting of 19 member countries but not the United States, is meeting to brainstorm ways of resolving the Doha impasse. But Punke said WTO members should instead admit Doha hasn't worked and start looking at other steps.
"The problem, in our view, is profoundly substantive ... The world has changed and WTO members have starkly different views about the implications of that change," Punke said.
Punke's comments come as U.S. business interests have debated whether a broad trade breakthrough is possible through the WTO.
In mid-summer, construction equipment giant Caterpillar (CAT.N) called for a bold trade breakthrough via the WTO, but the Coalition of Service Industries said the organisation is incapable of getting the job done. [ID:nN1E77119I]
A Cairns Group source told Reuters this week that developing countries like China and India have not offered sufficient market access to foreign manufacturers that would entice the United States and European Union to lower their rich farm subsidies - a key target of the Doha talks.
Efforts to resolve the impasse come as many economies are struggling to recover, Punke noted.
Cairns meetings wrap up on Friday. The group's members, who include Canada, Australia, Brazil, Argentina and other countries, represent more than one-quarter of the world's agricultural trade.
September 9, 2011
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