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WTO Members Seek Services Accord as Doha Stalls, U.S. Says

March 02, 2012

The U.S. is in talks with 15 other members of the World Trade Organization on a deal covering services after broader global negotiations stalled, an Obama administration official said.

“We should pursue market opening wherever and however we can,” Michael Punke, U.S. ambassador to the Geneva-based group, told reporters today in Washington. “We should not simply allow the whole system to be paralyzed by the fact that some members are not ready to talk right now.”

The talks so far include the European Union, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Singapore, Pakistan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mexico and South Korea, Punke said. More nations may join, Punke said.

Having an agreement that’s as broad as possible “is in everyone’s economic interests,” he said, citing a “desire among all participants in this process to use this as a stepping stone toward a broader multilateral agreement.”

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in May, a group of 21 Pacific ministers said that the so-called Doha round of negotiations faces an “unbridgeable” gap and needs a new approach after a decade without striking a deal.

The Doha talks, which began in the Qatari capital in 2001, had three primary areas of negotiation -- agriculture, industrial goods and services. While discussions initially snagged over farm subsidies in rich nations, the U.S. and the EU have in recent years demanded that India, China and Brazil reduce tariffs on manufactured products.

Global attempts to reach a single, all-encompassing deal in the Doha round “demonstrably failed,” Punke said today. “We didn’t get a deal.”

Pascal Lamy, the director general of the WTO, said on Feb. 8 at a conference in Geneva that he expects no agreement on the Doha Round this year because “the political energy tank is empty.

‘‘On trade it’s pretty obvious that we have a huge package on the table after 10 years of negotiations,’’ Lamy said. ‘‘It’s not going to be the big package, all or nothing, at least for the moment.’’

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Martin in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at

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