WTO backs agricultural reforms, split on Doha
By Edith Honan
NAIROBI (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization reached deals on agricultural export subsidies, food aid and other issues on Saturday, capping a ministerial conference in the Kenyan capital where rich and poor countries had been split over the path of trade reform.
Members said the Nairobi deal had drawn a line under years of stalemate over the direction of global trade negotiations.
"Our work in Nairobi marks a turning point for the World Trade Organization," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement. The negotiations "started a new phase in the WTO's evolution" and showed "what is possible when the multilateral trading system comes together to solve a problem."
The Geneva-based WTO, which invited Liberia and Afghanistan to become its 163rd and 164th members, has been trying and largely failing to agree on a worldwide package of trade reforms since a meeting in Doha in 2001 hatched an ambitious plan for knocking down trade barriers.
The four-day Nairobi conference was extended by a final non-stop 24-hour negotiation between the major trading powers, who agreed on a package that included phasing out agricultural export subsidies and restricting agricultural export credits.
But they agreed to disagree about the potential for success in the Doha round of talks.
Both India, which had insisted on completing the existing Doha talks before any further negotiation, and the United States, which wanted to move on from Doha, had had to give ground, an EU official said.
The compromise means that more issues can be loaded onto the negotiating agenda, the EU official said. Continued...