Global trade talks at WTO at risk to collapse

Failure at the meeting called by WTO chief Pascal Lamy with ministers from Australia, Brazil, the 25-nation European Union, India, Japan and the United States could lead to the indefinite suspension of the Doha round of trade liberalization talks, which are already two years behind schedule and have been at an impasse for months.

Lamy was expected later Monday to discuss with the organization's 149 members whether it was worth continuing with the negotiations, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were continuing and countries had agreed not to comment publicly.

Leaders of the Group of Eight major industrialized countries reaffirmed their commitment to the talks at their summit in Russia last week, but it appeared that failed to translate into real negotiating action as officials said Sunday's meeting failed to generate the new movement hoped for after the pledges of support from the world's most powerful presidents and prime ministers.

Schwab told reporters at the World Trade Organization that the U.S. was committed to "a robust, ambitioned and balanced round" and would not give up on the talks, even as other officials suggested the failure of leading commercial powers to make compromises risked wrecking the talks, the AP reports.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said the proposed steps forward from other countries "appeared to be getting lighter and lighter in the last few weeks."

But some officials said the United States should have improved its offer on cutting government handouts to American farmers. The U.S., however, held firm to its stance that it would budge only after the EU lowered its tariffs on farm imports and leading developing countries like Brazil and India cut barriers to trade in manufactured goods.

The complex trade talks aim to boost the global economy and lift millions out of poverty worldwide by lowering trade barriers across all sectors, with particular emphasis on clearing obstacles to increased exports from developing countries.

But the Doha round has stalled because of differences between rich and poor countries, as well as between the EU and the U.S. The Doha negotiations are named for the Qatari capital where they were launched in 2001.

In a recent series of Geneva meetings, most countries have been sticking rigidly to the same positions they have maintained for months.