June 18, 2008 / 9:08 PM / 10 years ago

Bad Doha deal worse than none at all - US business

WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - A broad swathe of U.S. businesses urged World Trade Organization countries to make the concessions needed to clinch a new global trade pact, but cautioned that a bad deal was worse than no deal at all.

“Without a major breakthrough in the coming weeks, we fear that this opportunity to liberalize trade will be lost for some considerable time,” the industry groups and companies told WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy in a letter.

But the letter also voiced dissatisfaction with the current proposals to liberalize agriculture and industrial trade, along with services like telecoms or banking, in the WTO’s Doha round of talks.

The businesses, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), the food giant Cargill Inc, IBM Corp (IBM.N) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said even deeper liberalization was needed to boost trade and secure the support of U.S. business.

“We encourage greater efforts to bring the round to a close based on ambition, and want to reinforce the recent statement of the U.S. Trade Representative, when she said, ‘There is an urgency in terms of time, but content is more important than the calendar,’” they wrote on Wednesday.

They said major cuts for agriculture and industrial tariffs are needed, especially for major emerging market countries, also noting that “progress in the services negotiations is falling short.”

The letter comes as negotiators in Geneva strive to build enough consensus in the talks, which have been only plodding along since 2001, to bring together trade ministers for a breakthrough meeting some time this summer.

The Bush administration is keen to strike an agreement on the outlines of a deal in the coming weeks, in order to give trade officials enough time to conclude an agreement before President George W. Bush leaves office in January.

But the same issues have remained contentious from the start: trade-offs on agriculture subsidies and tariffs for rich and poor nations, tariffs for industrial trade, and other issues.

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