ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Leaders of the Group of Eight major industrial countries on Sunday recommended a two-week extension for a deadline aimed at breaking the impasse over long-stalled global trade negotiations.
"We welcome the decision to ask the WTO director general to consult members intensively in order to promote early agreement," their statement said. G8 leaders called on Pascal Lamy to consult with members to reach an agreement on agriculture and industry tariffs "within a month."
"We call upon all countries to commit to the concerted leadership and action needed to reach a successful conclusion of the Doha round," the negotiations aimed at reducing trade barriers to poor countries that were launched in 2001.
However, it was far from clear whether the call for negotiations would be embraced by the leaders of Brazil and India, who meet for talks with G8 leaders Monday.
Both have been vocal in their insistence that the talks must include more concessions by rich nations to lower trade barriers on farm products produced by poor countries. But the two countries are themselves being pressed by the G8 nations to do more to lower their barriers to imports of manufactured products.
Commenting on the statement, an EU trade official speaking on condition of anonymity said that the leaders' call "put a bit of fuel into the engine of the negotiations. ... That means giving Pascal Lamy not just a mandate for consultations to bring things together but also a date. And that's what he has now."
He noted, however, that despite the mandate "we still haven't quite got the body language," from the non-G8 countries.
The statement gave no indication that the G8 countries had been able to resolve any of the wide differences.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had sent a signal Friday that he was looking for progress on trade.
Wealthy countries "must remove barriers for the inflow of goods of traditional production ... but also stop full-scale subsidizing of their exports on the state level," Putin said, referring to the import tariffs and agricultural supports that jack up global prices and prevent developing countries from getting a foothold in the global economy.
Negotiations on Russia's admission to the WTO broke off Saturday. Officials said talks ground to a halt on the subject of Russian barriers to U.S. beef and pork exports.
The Group of Eight is made up of the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Canada.