Page last updated at 08:10 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 09:10 UK

Dismay at collapse of trade talks

EU trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson's reaction

International trade negotiators have expressed their disappointment at the failure of the latest talks in Geneva aimed at liberalising global trade.

China said the collapse was a serious setback for the world economy, while the EU described it as "heartbreaking".

The negotiations foundered because the United States could not agree with China and India on import rules.

But the World Trade Organization chief, Pascal Lamy, said he would not abandon his efforts to find an agreement.

The main stumbling block was farm import rules, which allow countries to protect poor farmers by imposing a tariff on certain goods in the event of a drop in prices or a surge in imports.

India, China and the US could not agree on the tariff threshold for such an event.

Washington said that the "safeguard clause" protecting developing nations from unrestricted imports had been set too low.


China said it blamed the "selfish and short-sighted behaviour" of wealthy nations for the failure of the trade talks.

It said that the talks collapsed ultimately because the US and EU were unwilling to scrap the huge subsidies they pay their farmers.


Japan, meanwhile, was critical of China and India's stance.

"Compared with seven years ago when the Doha round started, the economic weight of China and India has been increasing. At the same time they need to take more responsibility," said Nobutaka Machimura, Japan's chief cabinet secretary.

"I wonder if they were thinking about the world economy as a whole while pursuing their own national interests."

Damage limitation

Ministers had struggled for more than a week to reach a consensus on a trade pact, with talks finally breaking down on Tuesday.

It's too early to say but the bottom line is we can't give up - we have too much at stake
India's envoy, Ujal Singh Bhatia

The "Doha Round" was launched in 2001 with the aim of lifting millions out of poverty. But Mr Lamy said "members have simply not been able to bridge their differences".

He said: "We will need to let the dust settle a bit... WTO members will need to have a sober look at if and how they bring the pieces back together."

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson described the result as a "collective failure".

He said that it was now necessary to "make sure the damage is contained", and to work "as hard as possible to restore that confidence" in the WTO.

US trade representative Susan Schwab said the US would "stand by our current offers" and that it hoped to return to a negotiations where there was "more ambition on the table".

India's envoy to the talks, Ujal Singh Bhatia, said the "bottom line is we can't give up", while China said WTO members should "learn a lesson" from the failure.

Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim insisted that the negotiations were not dead.

"We have a good package, a package that would be positive for world trade," he said.


Over the years, the talks have repeatedly collapsed as developed countries failed to agree with developing nations on terms of access to each others' markets.

America's top trade negotiator Susan Schwab on the talks

The US and the European Union want greater access to provide services to fast-growing emerging countries, including China and India.

Meanwhile, developing countries want greater access for their agricultural products in Europe and the US.

Analysts have said that the collapse of the Doha talks could symbolise an end to multilateral trade agreements.

Instead, nations may pursue dual agreements with partner nations, preferring to focus on their own requirements rather than a more common negotiating goal.

The talks in Geneva were complicated by recent increases in the price of food and fuel.

Higher prices have prompted protests in both developed and developing nations, making it harder for negotiators to reach a compromise on opening up their markets to greater competition, analysts said.

What is your reaction to the collapse of the trade talks? Where do the negotiators go from here? Send us your comments using the form below.

Your comments:

Agriculture has been the oldest vocation in all countries since the Neolithic revolution. It is still the centre of gravity of livelihoods, culture, social values, and politics in many [developing] countries. You need a fair deal if you are to maintain the delicate socioeconomic equilibrium in your country.
Wijitapura Wimalaratana, Colombo, Sri Lanka

When it comes to security of food supplies we should remember that it is always the poorest countries that suffer most when there is volatility in the market. The benefits of free trade come with a heavy penalty of volatility. If we are really to take that great step forward to "globalisation" we need an agreement, a mechanism that supports ALL farmers everywhere in the world, and allows the poorest small-holder in the poorest nation a guaranteed income if he produces food for us all to eat.
John White, Deal UK

My view as a citizen of a developing country in Africa is that the collapse will not only affect the socioeconomics of developing countries but also destabilise international security in both developed and developing countries.
Leonard Kopela, South Africa

What we are seeing is typical separatism. In order to get what we want, the other guy has to lose. We are all ONE species no matter what country we live in, why do we spend billions on weapons, and space exploration but we can't feed all of the people living on this lovely little planet? Our priority must be humanity.
Tony Walton, Australia

It is an excellent exercise in self-determination for developing countries. They are sending a clear message to developed countries that their markets are not to be sold off as auction items! It is a breakthrough, not a collapse!
Olave Basabose, Delft, Netherlands

There is no way that the US and certain EU countries will abandon farm subsidies. It would be political suicide. Farmers enjoy political clout that far outweighs their actual numbers and economic importance.
Joe Ryan, Nogent, France

Fear, greed and the narrow vision of special interests once again rule. If these folks can't see the huge opportunity for a unity of purpose in sharing resources, it's tragic. Seems we need some new negotiators.
Scott Washburn, Seattle USA

Watching the reports about the talks at the WTO conference, it looked positive and things sounded positive. There were many compromises from both developed and developing nations. Many countries were going to benefit. They must not just give up now. They must find a new format for discussions and agreement.
Godha, Limassol, Cyprus

I am a believer that the WTO is an organisation that is designed not to liberalise international trade but a means to colonise the poorest nations in a modern way. How could the US and EU tell us that it is a better deal for the world’s poorest people when Africa is not even represented in the talk? This is really the better outcome for the world’s poorest countries than the proposed failed deal.
Alef, Ethiopia

Populous developing countries like India and China have good reason to protect their farm product market. No one can help them if food crises occurs in these countries.
Guo, Beijing

It is most disheartening to note that the one truly global debate for development has been lost. I see this as the end of hope for development as an ideology, sacrificed at the altar of globalisation. The future looks very bleak indeed for farmers, for agriculture and food security.
Bhargavi Nagaraja, Bangalore, India

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