South Africa says U.S. not ready for global trade deal

Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:39am EST
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DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - The United States is not ready to conclude a world trade deal this year because of domestic politics, so industrialized countries should consider a special trade package for the poorest nations, South Africa's trade minister said on Friday.

"All the indications are that it's an incredibly controversial matter in the U.S. Congress and I don't think they have yet defined a sustainable approach to conclude the round," Rob Davies told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He was speaking on the eve of an annual informal meeting of trade ministers in the Swiss ski resort to which Washington is sending only a deputy ambassador.

Davies said South Africa and some other countries wanted the World Trade Organization to consider a partial agreement or "early harvest" that would bring forward benefits to the least developed nations by scrapping export subsidies on agricultural goods and on cotton.

While other nations accepted WTO compromise documents that have been worked out over nearly a decade of the so-called Doha Development Round of trade talks, the United States was unwilling to negotiate on that basis, he said.

"One of the bigger trading partners in the world is not indicating that it's willing to engage on the processes of these texts. It wants substantial revisions but hasn't developed any great clarity," Davies said.

"The pace in incredibly slow," he said.

Egyptian Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid also said earlier this week he did not believe the United States was willing to conclude a global trade pact this year despite a pledge by G20 leaders including President Barack Obama last September

High unemployment rates in the United States and Europe would make governments afraid to open up global trade more for the benefit of developing nations, he said.

(reporting by Paul Taylor, editing by Hans Peters)