WTO Doha negotiations are stuck like a mule: Lamy

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Negotiations on an expanded global free trade deal are stuck, World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy said Thursday, comparing the body to a mule which is neither moving forwards nor backwards.

"Our negotiations are going through a very difficult stage," said Lamy, in an update on Doha trade talks.

"To put it simply for many, the WTO can resemble a mule. A mule is reliable, durable, dependable animal, and the mule, like the multilateral trading system, does not go backwards," explained Lamy.

"The difficulty with the mule is that they sometimes get stuck. They don't go backwards but they refuse to move forwards. That's what's happening with the multilateral trading system today," he told journalists.

A clear sticking point at the moment is in negotiations about cutting duties in specific industrial sectors, and Lamy said he is trying to assess how wide the gap was.

Participation in the so-called sectorals is voluntary under the Doha mandate, but developed economies such as the United States has been pushing developing giants like China and India to join in.

"I will report on my assessment on this specific point to the entire membership by Easter, which is the time when members will have in front of them texts from all negotiating group chairs, reflecting where we are in the negotiations," he said.

By Easter, he added, the 153 member states of the trade body "will be able to take a collective view as to the next steps, ie. what directions they want the negotiations to take."

Launched in the Qatari capital in 2001, the Doha Round of trade negotiations have failed to make progress since a last push in July 2008, as developed and developing economies fail to agree on tariff cuts on industrial goods and reductions of farm subsidies.

© 2011 AFP

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