Lobbyists: Doha Would Fare Better Than Colombia Deal

Group says a substantial global trade deal would stand a better chance of passing through the U.S. Congress than the Colombia FTA that was all but killed this week.

GENEVA (AP) -- A substantial global trade deal would stand a better chance of passing through the U.S. Congress than the Colombia free trade agreement that Democrats all but killed this week, a group of U.S. lobbyists said Wednesday.
Representatives of 19 major American companies and industry bodies -- including farm equipment maker John Deere and the National Foreign Trade Council -- said the political concerns surrounding an FTA with Colombia wouldn't hamper discussion on the so-called Doha round of world trade talks in the same way.
''Colombia is a setback ... but I don't think it should be seen by anyone to mean that the United States cannot complete a deal here in Geneva,'' said Marietta Bernot of chocolate and pet food maker Mars Inc.
The lobby group met with World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy and foreign delegations in Geneva this week to indicate U.S. support for a deal on the current round of global commerce talks, which started in Qatar's capital in 2001.
''The delegations here need to know that the U.S. business community will fight for this,'' Bernot told reporters.
A host of issues still need to be resolved before the WTO's 151 members can unanimously agree on a deal, not least the thorny matter of rich country farm subsidies and import tariffs in developing nations.
A better offer from developing countries on reducing taxes on foreign service providers is also needed, Christopher Wenk of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said.
''Services is critical,'' he said. ''It has to be there or you're going to risk the support of the U.S. business community.''
Developing countries, in particular India, have been holding out on making concessions on services until rich countries agree to ease rules on labor mobility.
Trade officials in Geneva are hoping that WTO members can agree on the outlines of a deal by early May so that ministers can meet later in the month to resolve some of the more politically sensitive points.
This approach, known as ''horizontal process'' because it passes responsibility up to a more senior level, runs the risk of high-profile failure as has happened several times over the past seven years.
But if successful, it might leave just enough time for Congress to debate a bill approving the deal before it goes into recess at the end of the year.
The industry representatives said now was a good time to start discussing the complex issues surrounding the Doha round with legislators.
''There's no better time than right now to do a really good education with Congress,'' Doug Goudie of the National Association of Manufacturers said, adding that many new members who entered in 2006 knew the WTO only from its tumultuous meeting in Seattle nine years ago.
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