World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Lamy urged WTO members to pledge to work to salvage the faltering Doha Development Round of trade talks and ensure the multi-lateral trading system does not become irrelevant.

Lamy spoke during the opening of the WTO's biennial ministerial conference in Geneva.

He said WTO members must address the primary question causing the impasse in the negotiations, specifically what contribution major emerging markets (China, India and Brazil) should make towards the further opening of global markets.

Efforts to re-start the Doha negotiations earlier this year following the collapse of the talks in July 2008 were unsuccessful in part because the United States insisted that Brazil, China and India increase access for goods and services. This effort was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to secure a “deliverables” package in favor of least developed countries (LDCs) for the December ministerial. That package would have included concessions on cotton.

The United States refused to include a commitment to 100 percent duty-free/quota free market access for exports from LDCs without additional initiatives that would benefit developed and developing country exporters.

To facilitate the discussion of a way forward, Lamy said he would convene a “panel of multi-stakeholders of the WTO” to analyze all these elements and report back to the WTO membership by the end of 2012.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told the Bureau of National Affairs he was encouraged that more and more WTO members were coming to the realization that the Doha talks could not go on with “business as usual.” He noted, “We can't go back to the same formula and think we'll magically produce a different result. At least we've acknowledged we're at an impasse.”