BRADLEY S. KLAPPER
June 20, 2007
Venezuela said Wednesday it is working with developing countries on a statement expressing its objections to private talks among the World Trade Organization's top four powers in Germany.
The move puts additional pressure on the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India, whose negotiations this week have been described as crucial for the WTO's drive to complete a new global trade pact by the end of the year.
As all WTO decisions are made by consensus, each of the organization's 150 members holds a virtual veto on a deal liberalizing world trade in agriculture, manufacturing and services.
''We are concerned that they might agree on a deal among themselves,'' Ambassador Oscar Carvallo of Venezuela said. ``The issues of developing countries need to be addressed. Not just the interests of a few members.''
Venezuela is working on a statement of protest to be presented on Thursday in Geneva, where the WTO has its headquarters, Carvallo told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. It is seeking the support of Latin American countries such as Bolivia and Cuba, as well as some of the WTO's smaller member countries in Africa and the Caribbean.
The global trade talks, known as the Doha round, have struggled since being launched in Qatar's capital six years ago, largely because of wrangling between rich and poor countries over eliminating barriers to agricultural trade.
The Potsdam meeting of the WTO's four biggest powers began Tuesday, with the United States and Brazil disagreeing over how far the United States should cut farm subsidies. Critics of the government handouts say they unfairly deflate international prices, making it impossible for poorer nations to develop their economies by selling their agricultural produce abroad.
Washington has been demanding that major developing countries provide greater market access for American farm produce in exchange for U.S. subsidy cuts. Both the United States and the European Union say their agriculture concessions must be matched by lower industrial tariffs in Brazil and India.
The round is already three years behind schedule, but trade officials are still hopeful they can agree on the framework of a deal by the end of July, leaving enough time for the technical work on a final accord by year-end.
Failure over the next six weeks could set the whole process back until 2010, as subsidy and tariff concessions are generally seen as unlikely in 2008, when U.S. elections will be held, and in 2009, when Indian elections are scheduled.
''We are concerned that we will be only given a short amount of time to say yes or no to something they have negotiated,'' Carvallo said