DAVOS/LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron called the drive to finish the Doha round of world trade talks a failure and said on Thursday the European Union should instead negotiate free trade deals with the United States and Africa, according to a Reuters report.
Cameron’s comments, to be made in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, mark a break with the orthodox position of most world leaders who have for years called for a final push to conclude the complex set of global trade negotiations launched in the Qatari capital Doha in 2001.
Instead of trying to get every country to agree, Cameron said the 27-nation EU should push forward with bilateral deals. He suggested a “coalition of the willing” — countries that wanted to do an ambitious trade deal — could forge ahead alone.
“Last year, at this very forum, world leaders called for an all-out effort to conclude the Doha round in 2011. We said it was the make-or-break year. It was. And we have to be frank about it. It didn’t work,” Cameron will say, according to excerpts of his speech released in advance by his office.
“But let’s not give up on free trade. Let’s step forward with a new and ambitious set of ideas to take trade forwards.” Cameron’s speech takes a swipe at his fellow EU leaders in his first address on the continent since Britain refused to play a role in a fiscal compact designed to shore up the eurozone.
After Chancellor Angela Merkel used her address on Wednesday to say that she was not prepared to expose Germany to more flak from the markets to bail out eurozone strugglers, Cameron will urge an end to mere “tinkering”.
He will be joined by the prime ministers of Canada and Singapore, who like Britain both retain a gold-plated triple A credit rating — unlike eurozone states such as France and Austria, which were downgraded this month.
Leaders from Africa will meanwhile debate the prospects of the world’s poorest continent at a time when developed nations are in the mire and the outlook for the Arab world after last year’s uprisings will be thrashed out.
After Merkel said that Europe had to become more competitive, Cameron expanded on the theme. “Europe’s lack of competitiveness remains its Achilles Heel. For all the talk, the Lisbon Strategy has failed to deliver the structural reforms we need,” he said in reference to a European treaty inked in 2007.