Michael Punke, ambassador and deputy of United States Trade Representative for the WTO, reported on U.S. efforts to find meaningful concessions from China, India and Brazil but noted that to date, bilateral efforts have yielded little in the way of new offers. 

Lamy has been conducting his own “confessional” sessions with different delegations in an effort to determine if there is any possible acceptable market access configuration that has not yet been considered. 

The U.S. grain industry stressed the importance of working with developing countries to get some level of detail on how they intend to apply the formulas that allow for tariff protection on special products and through the use of the special safeguard mechanism (SSM). Both mechanisms allow for developing countries to protect a generous number of agricultural products from tariff reductions and import surges. Without an understanding of how countries will use these protections, it is difficult for the U.S. grain industry and for U.S. agricultural interests in general, to determine the real value of a Doha market access package.

Lamy provided perhaps the most dire assessment of the consequences of not reaching an agreement before 2012, expressing concerns that the round may fail and there may be a need to begin thinking beyond Doha, harvesting the issues on which there is agreement, or adding new issues such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures and climate change to create a more viable and current negotiating package.

The Council is not giving up on the prospects of a successful agreement and will continue to support U.S. negotiators’ efforts to move forward. Despite the outlook, Ambassador Punke reminded the delegation that while the failure to achieve a Doha agreement may tarnish the WTO, the WTO would continue to exist, WTO rules would continue to discipline trade practices, and the dispute settlement system would continue to function.

“The outlook seemed pretty bleak, but there’s also a sense that most countries haven’t exhausted all their options,” said Rebecca Bratter, USGC director of trade development. “There is probably room to negotiate, and some countries may still be waiting for the right moment to put additional offers on the table. That could still move the round forward.”