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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        12  March 2011

Indonesia says Doha talks stalled

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World trade talks could miss a July deadline unless rich nations offered more agricultural concessions, Indonesia's trade minister said on Friday, suggesting that a collapse of the negotiations could prolong world food shortages.

Leading trading nations involved in the decade-old Doha round of trade talks have set a deadline of July to conclude negotiations before finalizing a new agreement by year's end.

Such a deal is seen as crucial to spurring global farm investment. But Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said little progress had been made since the deadline was set in January during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"Coming out of Davos I was cautiously optimistic, but now that two months have passed, we are seeing some movement in Geneva, but I think not enough," she said while visiting Australia.

"There has to be more movement and there has to be clear signaling from the major economies, such as the United States, that they are really willing to have a serious engagement," she added.

The Doha negotiations were launched in late 2001 with the goal of helping poor countries prosper through trade. Since then, talks have been hamstrung by disagreements over how much the United States and the European Union should cut farm subsidies and tariffs and how much major developing countries should open their markets in exchange.

Indonesia has argued for some exceptions to be made for developing countries that would allow them to leave out "special products" from any generally agreed tariff cuts and temporarily raise barriers if needed.

Mari said a successful conclusion to Doha was vital to remove trade-related hurdles to more investment in agriculture, helping spur food production globally and ease shortages.

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