No Doha deal this year, says former USTR

No Doha deal this year, says former USTR

WASHINGTON -- Despite renewed efforts by U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, the World Trade Organization is not likely to complete the Doha round of negotiations by the end of the year, a former trade representative said Friday.

"There's simply no way we're going to wrap up the Doha round by the 2004 deadline," said Clayton Yeutter, who served as trade representative from 1985-88. Yeutter encouraged Zoellick to continue his worldwide trade promotion tour, however, to help set an agenda for the next round of ministerial meetings.

"We better figure out what we're going to be negotiating about and we better do it quickly," Yeutter said at a panel discussion of former trade representatives hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The last round of negotiations, held last year in Cancun, were largely considered a disastrous failure. Yeutter urged caution against scheduling another minister-level meeting, as Zoellick has proposed for Hong Kong this year, unless a realistic agenda exists.

"I'm not sure what one would accomplish at a ministerial in December. We can't afford another debacle," Yeutter said. "There were no winners in Cancun. Everyone was a loser."

A more realistic deadline for completing the current round of trade talks, which includes agriculture, industrial tariffs and services, is mid-2007.

"Three years go by in a hurry," Yeutter said.

William D. Eberle, trade representative from 1971-75, had a similar assessment for progress in developing a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

"I do not believe a free trade agreement of the Americas will happen soon," Eberle said. "I do believe we'll have some more bilateral agreements, and it will happen eventually. It won't happen this year."

Charlene Barshefsky, USTR from 1996-01, also warned the audience that the trade imbalance with China is not going to tilt towards the United States any time soon. "The trade deficit is going to get much worse before it ever becomes better," she said.