UNITED STATES: Zoellick sticks to hard line on WTO

Issue 

BY SEAN HEALY

While still pushing hard for a new round of trade talks, United States
trade representative Robert Zoellick and other senior US officials have
signalled that their government has no intention of reviewing imbalances
in existing World Trade Organisation agreements.

Many poor countries want their commitments reviewed and their liberalisation
burdens lessened, saying that they have not enjoyed the benefits promised
to them under “free trade”.

Research by the United Nations Development Program has shown that 70%
of the benefits of the last “Uruguay Round” of trade talks will go to the
major industrialised powers, while the 48 least developed countries will
be worse off by US$600 million.

Concessions on the “implementation agenda” are viewed by many Third
World governments as essential preconditions for their agreement to a new
round. Thirty nations took the floor during WTO talks on May 17 urging
action on such issues.

However, during a visit to WTO headquarters in Geneva, Zoellick made
it clear that the US was not prepared to make any significant concessions.
He hinted that the most Third World countries could hope for was an extension
on some of the terms of the agreement on trade-related investment measures
and that even that could not be agreed before the WTO's November ministerial
meeting.

In a May 14 speech to the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue, US commerce
secretary Don Evans echoed Zoellick, saying the US would not tolerate any
backsliding by Third World nations on existing WTO commitments.

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