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Read All About It – USTR Kirk on Doha Round

On Friday, March 11, Ambassador Kirk placed an opinion article on to explain the U.S. view on the future of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations. Here’s the text:

Right now in Geneva, Switzerland, a test is underway. It is a test of the willingness of World Trade Organization (WTO) members to move the decade-long Doha Development Round negotiations into the “end game” – as President Obama and other G20 Leaders have directed negotiators to do this year. The window of opportunity for the talks to avoid decline into futility is a narrow one. The United States will leave no stone unturned in its quest for an ambitious and balanced outcome. But key negotiating partners must share this motivation.

The world has changed since the Doha negotiations began in 2001. To succeed today, WTO trade talks must address the world as it is and as it will be in the coming decades. The remarkable growth of emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil must be reflected in a final Doha outcome.

The United States has been frank about the importance of increased access to these emerging markets for U.S. exporters. But such access is also vital for the poorest countries that have been a particular focus of the Doha negotiations –especially since these countries already have largely open access to major developed economies like the United States. In a negotiation in which the United States is being asked to significantly cut 100 percent of import duties on both industrial and agricultural goods, we are asking emerging economies to accept responsibility commensurate with their expanded roles in the global economy.

No country is more important to a successful Doha outcome than China. By any estimate, China will be an enormous winner from a Doha agreement. China’s exports have boomed since joining the WTO, but it continues to maintain high tariffs, many of which still would not be cut under the current parameters of the Doha Round.

Despite its position as an economic and trade powerhouse, today’s WTO rules allow China to have open access to major markets without giving appropriately reciprocal access. In Doha, we are asking China to commit to a significant opening of its market in industrial sectors – like chemicals, electronics, and industrial machinery – where China’s global competitiveness is unquestioned. That’s reasonable.

Similarly, Brazil is one of the world’s ten largest economies and a growing export power. Yet Brazil’s market remains restricted in the technology sector, among others. Since 1996, 73 countries comprising over 97 percent of the global trade in information technology products have opened their markets to competition in this sector by signing the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA). Signatories include developing countries such as Egypt, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Vietnam. In Doha, one of our “asks” of Brazil is to join the ITA. That’s reasonable.

Under the Doha package currently on the table, India would make cuts on only 3 percent of the tariffs it applies on industrial goods – a result that can hardly make sense in a 21st century economy in which India plays a major role. As with China and Brazil, we look to India to offer significant liberalization in sectors – such as pharmaceuticals and industrial machinery – where India is doing extremely well as an exporter. That’s reasonable.

These three big players are also major competitors in global trade in services, where we also have considerable work to do to create new market access. China’s telecommunication operators are now the world’s largest; Brazil is the world’s 7th largest Internet user; and India is a world leader in information and communications technology (ICT) services. And yet the current services package would yield little progress in opening markets in sectors that drive global economic growth and development, from communications to financial services, environmental to supply chain services. Any final Doha package simply must do better.

We also have critical unfinished business on agriculture. While the current negotiating texts are abundantly clear on what is expected of the United States, it is still unclear what our farmers will see in return, especially from the key emerging markets.

The United States is encouraged that a new sense of urgency appears to be present in Geneva. But in order to put Doha firmly and finally on the path of success, that urgency must now translate – very quickly – into real negotiations. The United States will shoulder its share of the burden. We will expect and insist, however, that other key players help to lift the load. That’s reasonable.