As expected, the World Trade Organization Doha talks have missed
another deadline, this one to establish the framework for reducing trade
barriers on goods -- from corn to computers. The U.S. remains committed to
finding ways to bridge differences between WTO members, and that is why we're in
Geneva this week. We find that most countries share our desire for an ambitious
result across the board. Most also agree this is a once-in-a-generation chance
to reduce trade barriers and raise living standards, and we cannot allow it to
As has been the case from the start of the Doha Round
four-and-a-half years ago, the U.S. remains committed to an ambitious and
comprehensive multilateral agreement to expand trade and promote development. We
do not think WTO members should settle for half measures -- or "Doha Lite," as
some have called it.
The stakes are high for all WTO member countries, large and
small, no matter what their stage of development. Developed countries like
France, the U.S., Japan and Germany will benefit by being able to sell their
products and services in more markets. A study by the University of Michigan
estimated that with the total elimination of trade barriers Europe's annual GDP
would increase by 6.3%, Japan's by 6.2% and America's by 5.5%. The potential
gains are even greater for developing countries. The World Bank estimates that
full liberalization would boost the incomes of developing countries, which
comprise two-thirds of the WTO membership, by up to $259 billion by 2015.
Agriculture remains a key to success. It was placed at the heart
of Doha in 2001 because of its importance to the developing world and because
agriculture has the highest barriers to trade. Over 70% of the poor living in
developing countries live in rural areas and depend on agriculture to make their
living. Not surprisingly, 63% of the income gains the world's poor would enjoy
as a result of a successful round would come from more open trade in agriculture
and 93% of those potential benefits and income gains depend on improved market
access. The facts are clear. Without new trade flows from reduced tariffs, there
is no development in the Doha Development Round.
In order to reach an ambitious result and jumpstart the talks,
last October the U.S. offered a bold proposal to eliminate export subsidies in
agriculture, make deep cuts in agricultural tariffs and sharply reduce
trade-distorting domestic subsidies. This significant and forward-looking
proposal carries political risks at home but we believed then -- and we believe
now -- that these are risks worth taking given the importance of the round,
particularly for developing countries.
Since that time, our trading partners have failed to match that
offer with equally ambitious offers, putting progress on additional market
opening for industrial goods and services at risk. The U.S. cannot keep its
current offer on agriculture on the table -- let alone unilaterally agree to
make deeper cuts to our domestic support programs -- without additional and
substantial steps by the European Union and other major partners, including
those in the developing world, to open their markets. As we have made clear for
six months, the U.S. offer was contingent on WTO members meeting the clear Doha
mandate for new market access and new trade flows across the board. This means
meaningful offers on market access in all three major negotiating areas --
agriculture, non-agricultural goods and services.
A seamless transition in the leadership at the Office of the U.S.
Trade Representative underscores the U.S. commitment to the Doha Round's
success. The imperative remains for our trading partners to show more resolve in
opening their markets. Free trade is at the center of President Bush's vision of
a world of expanding economic opportunity, prosperity and freedom. Our pursuit
of that vision will continue in an uninterrupted and unaltered fashion no matter
who speaks for the president in global trade talks. The U.S. has made a clear
choice to stand up to forces of economic isolationism and protectionism. We have
chosen to reject the path of least resistance, and of incremental but
insufficient changes in the global trading system. It is time for all WTO
members to seize this last chance to make the same choice.
Mr. Portman and Ms. Schwab are, respectively, U.S. trade
representative and deputy U.S. trade representative.