UNITED STATES: Zoellick sticks to hard line on WTO

June 6, 2001


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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