WTO Director Urges Speedier Bilateral Talks

Pascal Lamy says bilateral negotiations between major trade powers are moving too slowly for the Doha round to resume.

World Trade Organization director Pascal Lamy said last week that he saw new determination among trade powers for the resumption of the Doha round of global trade talks, but on Friday he told reporters in the Philippines that bilateral talks between major powers - such as the U.S. and EU - need to move more quickly.

"Things are progressing with the major actors but at a speed which is too slow for me to decide to convene the ministers next week or the week after," he says.

Lamy relaunched the talks in January, but will not call trade representatives together until there is a chance of success.

"The breakthrough has to come in the first part of the year," Lamy says. "The distance between a breakthrough and a final conclusion, I would say, (is) roughly...eight months."

One reason for concern - and for a speedier process - is the expiration of President Bush's fast-track trade authority in June, unless Congress renews it. If Congress does not renew his authority - and with Democrats in the majority, the chance of renewal is certainly lower - it would allow Congress to amend any trade agreement, which would prolong the process and threaten the chances of a Doha agreement.

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