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U.S.-EU Trade Deal May Push WTO to Restart Stalled Negotiations

A decision by the U.S. and European Union to open negotiations on a trade deal may propel the World Trade Organization to restart its own stalled talks, New Zealand’s candidate for the top WTO job said.

U.S. support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is the latest sign Washington is pivoting away from the WTO, whose efforts to revise the international trading system broke down in 2008. The U.S. is also negotiating a trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries.

The U.S.-EU talks “may well provide exactly the type of external shock to restart the (WTO) negotiations,” said New Zealand’s Trade Minister Tim Groser, one of nine contenders to succeed Pascal Lamy as WTO chief in late August.

“The problem is the decreasing relevance year by year of an organization that has not refreshed its rules and obligations in any important way” for 19 years, Groser said in Ankara last night. “What we’ve got to do is generate fresh energy in the center of the system to reduce the need for countries to look at alternatives.”

In December, U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Michael Punke called the organization “an institution at a crossroads, particularly its vital function as a forum for trade negotiations.”

The U.S.-EU trade talks are designed to liberalize trade and investment rules and address regulatory and other non-tariff barriers.

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