New US WTO envoy looks to emerging nations in trade talks

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The first US ambassador to the World Trade Organisation of the Obama era said Monday that progress in the blocked Doha Round of free trade talks was largely in the hands of Brazil, China and India.

"It's very simple: if the best advanced (developing) economies like China, India, Brazil are ready to accept to have the responsibility and leadership, then we'll have an agreement," the freshly appointed ambassador, Michael Punke, told journalists.

Punke arrived in recent weeks in Geneva after being appointed WTO ambassador and Deputy US Trade Representative only in March, to act as point man in the talks.

Many trade diplomats have been waiting for US signals on its next move in the Geneva-based talks for several months.

Punke said in his first meeting with the media that he felt frustrated when he found that many WTO members blamed recent lack of progress in the nine-year-old talks on the United States.

"Too often, people who don't want to negotiate use the US for an excuse," he said, insisting that the US position had always been clear.

"The round is currently unbalanced and this balance has to be improved," he added.

Punke pointed to emerging economies, underlining that they had gained in economic stature and needed to make more of an effort in the trade liberalisation talks, especially on access to their industrial markets.

"It's is not accurate to say that China is the same as Chad," Punke said. Most emerging economies are classified as developing nations in the WTO.

Punke acknowledged "significant gaps" in the WTO talks but underlined his belief that they could be bridged through "constant ongoing discussions" at bilateral level or among smaller groups of nations.

© 2010 AFP

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