Q&A: The Doha Round of World Trade Organisation
Tuesday, 22 July 2008

What is the point of the talks?
 
The Doha Round of World Trade Organisation talks is aimed at liberalising global trade to make importing and exporting cheaper and easier, with a special emphasis on improving the economies of developing countries
 
What would a deal look like?
 
Many of the WTO's 152 countries would either have to cut subsidies to their producers or lower protective import tariffs to let goods in. Domestic producers are very nervous about the impact and want to receive export opportunities to compensate
 
What is the timeframe?
 
They started in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks and have been stumbling along ever since, with meetings around the world and no particular deadline. Developing countries walked out of a meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in 2003. The US presidential elections have been seen as an unofficial cut-off for success or failure
 
Why is the US election so important?
 
President Bush has said that he is committed to success in the talks but the Farm Bill going through Congress would preserve high subsidies for farmers in the United States, which would make a global deal almost impossible. Barack Obama has indicated that he wants to protect US producers
 
What are the main sticking points?
 
The talks broadly cover agricultural and nonagricultural (manufactured) goods. The agricultural side is stuck over a row about bananas, with Latin America pushing for easier access to Europe, resisted by African, Caribbean and Pacific producers. On the manufactured goods side, developing countries think that they are being asked to allow too much access to their markets
 
What are the potential gains?
 
The World Bank has estimated that a deal could generate $287 billion (£145 billion) extra trade by 2015, helping to lift some developing countries out of poverty. Some commentators believe that a deal is the best chance to end the crisis over food prices
Source: Times Online
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