Wednesday, July 26

Beyond brinkmanship: "blamemanship"

Did Susan Schwab think up that word?
US won't dump WTO talks, but path unclear -- Schwab
By Doug Palmer
Reuters via The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 26, 2006; 6:26 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is strongly committed to reaching a new world trade deal, but two days after talks were suspended the way forward is unclear, the top U.S. negotiator said on Wednesday.

"We're ... 48 hours away from the crisis, the breakdown, the deadlock, the explosion," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in her first U.S. press conference since a weekend meeting meant to save the world trade talks ended in failure. "Feelings are a little raw," she said.

The trade round, officially known as the Doha Development Agenda, was put into a deep freeze on Monday after the G6 group of key trading partners failed to agree on how far to cut farm subsidies and tariffs. In the aftermath, the United States and the European Union have swapped charges about who was most to blame. [...]

"The Doha round is obviously in serious trouble, but it isn't dead yet and the United States has no intention of abandoning the Doha round," Schwab said.

Schwab said she would travel to Brazil on Thursday to talk with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim about "what happens next." The two agreed shortly after the failed meeting in Geneva that "we had come too far to abandon all the work we had put into (the world trade talks)," Schwab said.

Over the course of an hour with reporters, Schwab suggested it could take as long as three years to bring the talks to a successful conclusion or as little as six months.She also gave no clear indication when the Bush administration would seek a renewal of trade promotion authority, which expires July 1, 2007.

That legislation allows the White House to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended by Congress and its expiration has always been seen as the deadline for the global talks.

It took the Bush administration nearly two years to win trade promotion authority after President George W. Bush came into office in January 2001. Getting an extension could be even more difficult if Democrats win control of Congress from Republicans in the November congressional elections this year.

"If by the spring of 2007, we have the outline of an Doha Round that is an attractive package ... it would seem more likely that we get a positive reception to a TPA (trade promotion authority) vote," Schwab said.

But differences over farm subsidies and tariffs may be so intractable, trade promotion authority might have to expire before countries get serious about negotiating, she said.

Schwab said it was time to move past "blamemanship" for the Geneva meeting, but several times let her annoyance with EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson show.

"I'd love to swing at that one. I just can't. I'm sorry," Schwab said, when asked about a report that Mandelson had urged Bush to veto any extension of current U.S. farm subsidies.

She brushed off suggestions that a personality conflict with Mandelson might be an impediment to a deal.

"None of this stuff is personal ... I have a very different style than he does, and that's fine," she said.

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