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In Davos, top business leaders call for progress in global trade talks

In Davos, top business leaders call for progress in global trade talks

Some of the world's most powerful business executives called on trade negotiators and politicians Thursday to agree on a new global trade treaty, saying failure would mean more than lost commercial opportunities.
The International Business Council _ a group of 65 international figures including Dell Inc. Chairman Michael Dell, Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and Coca-Cola Co. Chief Executive Neville Isdell _ declared its readiness to help the World Trade Organization's five-year-old Doha round of commerce talks, according to a statement obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
Other prominent figures on the list include Bombardier Inc. Chairman Laurent Beaudoin, Nestle SA CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, British Airways PLC Chairman Martin Broughton and Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein.
"The current impasse in the Doha round threatens to undermine growth from trade liberalization," the statement said. "Trade is the most effective means we can offer to the members of the global community struggling to lift themselves out of poverty."
The so-called Doha round has stumbled since its inception five years ago in Qatar's capital. Rich and poor countries have clashed over slashing subsidies and cutting tariffs for international trade in goods and agriculture, and nearly incessant sniping between the European Union and United States has repeatedly stalled progress.
Efforts ground to a halt in July when the WTO's director-general, Pascal Lamy, called for the talks' suspension after the organization's most powerful members refused to budge from entrenched positions on farm support and manufacturing tariffs
"We are united in our concern that failure to restart the Doha round discussions immediately and conclude them within the next six months will seriously damage the global community," the business group said. "The lessons of history with regard to the destruction which flows from protectionism are clear and undeniable."
The round is already two years beyond an original completion date and officials are trying to forge the blueprint of a deal before July, when U.S. President George W. Bush's authority to make trade deals that can be sent to Congress for a simple yes-or-no vote expires.
Without the so-called "fast track" authority, it would be much harder for any treaty to gain congressional approval in the U.S., the world's largest trading nation.
In a sign of mounting pressure from global business leaders, another group comprised of Europeans and Americans appealed to the 27-nation EU, the U.S. and other powers to "make the necessary compromises" to get the trade talks back on track.
"The price of a successful and ambitious Doha Round can still be won," said General Electric Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, adding that it "is well worth the intense effort it will take to conclude the talks."
Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, president of BusinessEurope, which represents 20 million small, medium and large companies, warned that getting a deal was crucial because it meant the opening of new markets, key to further economic growth.
"It is now time for our leaders to deliver," he said in a statement released in Brussels, Belgium.
Talks set for Saturday are the first to include the U.S., EU, Brazil and India since July's failure. Ministers representing over 20 other countries are expected to attend.
Although talks were never formally or legally suspended, there have been suggestions that Lamy might call for the "official restart" to the round _ a largely ceremonial announcement with the aim of kickstarting a final push for a deal.
"This will be a meeting about process. This will not be a meeting about breakthroughs," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said Wednesday.
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Associated Press writer Constant Brand in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-09 21:06 GMT+08:00