Frustration is running high at the DOHA World Trade Organization talks which some observers claim have a slim chance of success. Reports coming out of Geneva this week confirm that it will be impossible to conclude the talks by the end of 2011.

Disagreement and worries about rising protectionism among developed nations have cast a feeling of gloom over the current DOHA talks. Searching for any way to make progress, negotiators are discussing a smaller package of trade concessions, however no consensus has been reached on what is to be included. Progress on the trade negotiations has ground to a halt.

"The talks are dead in the water; all movement forwards and backwards seems blocked," says Richard Baldwin, professor of international economics, Graduate Institute, Geneva.

"This is a round where the biggest players failed to provide leadership," says Baldwin. In a summary of the current round, Baldwin and Simon Evenett, professor of international trade, University of St. Gallen, provide a possible way forward. "Success would require four things implemented simultaneously: 1) a DOHA down-payment package agreed to this year, 2) an understanding of how to reorganize continuing talks on the most contentious issues, 3) commencement of a WTO work program on 21st-century trade issues, and 4) a bold initiative by middle power WTO members to try to unblock the talks."

Pascal Lamy, WTO Director General, says the package should focus on benefits to least developed countries. A successful conclusion to the trade round could yield agreements on global tarrifs for agricultural and other goods. But to succeed in that goal will require shared commitment and contributions from all nations involved.

"All major players must make a meaningful contribution to any package deliverables for 2011," said Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Michael Punke. "To be blunt, this will not work if members treat this as an 'everybody but us' exercise. "We are frankly concerned that we are hearing more from some about what they cannot do rather than what they can do. This simply will not work if the expectation is that one, or even two, of the major players will make the difficult choices while other major players sit on the sideline".

Many issues and questions remain including if WTO members can accept a smaller deal as a path forward for remaining negotiations.

Source: National Corn Growers Association