Efforts were under way all through the night last night to break a deadlock in World Trade Organization talks onlaunching a global trade round. Trade ministers from more than 140 countries today ran up against last-minuteobjections by India to plans for trade pact talks aimed at boosting the tottering world economy and lifting millionsfrom poverty. India, a vocal defender of its national interest, had refused to endorse a new series of WTO talks onissues from farming to industrial tariffs that it sees as skewed in favor of rich countries. 20 nations—includingEuropean Union and the US— met with India last night and to offer them a opt-out. Failure to reach a deal would be abody blow to the world trading system at a time when global economies are teetering on the brink of recession, butdiplomats said they remained confident a deal could be clinched.
The vote must come tonight at the latest because the Muslim holy month of fasting, Ramadan, begins tomorrow. Manydelegations have already left Qatar, despite the fact the key issues are being negotiated by the EU, India, the US,and Canada.
But activists can claim several victories from this round of WTO talks. The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling tolimit the damage that might result from a deal that declares poor countries can override the patent rights of drugcompanies to meet public health needs.
- Maude Barlow, chairperson of Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest public advocacy group, and on board ofdirectors.