A key meeting aimed at rescuing global trade talks collapsed yesterday (21 June) amid a falling out between four key players over plans to cut agricultural subsidies and tariffs.

The negotiations in the east German city of Potsdam started on Tuesday and were seen as decisive for the fate of the Doha trade talks.

The plan was that the four members of the World Trade Organization - the US, the European Union, Brazil and India - would resolve their differences before widening talks to the 150 countries making up the WTO membership.

But differences over subsidies that have distorted trade in commodities like cotton, sugar and corn caused a rift between the Indian and Brazilian delegations on the one hand, and the US and EU on the other.

Negotiations to conclude a trade liberalisation deal have missed several deadlines since the Doha round was launched by the WTO in November 2001.

Talks ground to a halt last summer over disagreements on liberalising world farm trade and high industrial tariffs, and WTO trade chief Pascal Lamy has been trying to get the discussions back on track since February this year.

Kevin M Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), said the most recent collapse in the Doha process was like "walking away from the opportunity to obtain improved market access for textiles, apparel and footwear through reduced tariffs and the elimination of non-tariff barriers."
He added: "All member countries need to demonstrate strengthened commitment to the process through willingness to adapt and work tirelessly toward a compromise that benefits all."