VA - World trading powers appealed on Wednesday for efforts to salvage WTO proposals amid regret and emotion at the collapse of nine-day marathon talks, and warnings that the poorest countries will suffer.
"I would only urge the Director-General (of the WTO) to treat this as a pause, not a breakdown, to keep on the table what is there," Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said the morning after the dramatic collapse.
The world's economic superpower, the United States, and one of the biggest emerging economies, India, shared dismay and regret even as they stuck by the unreconciled positions on import tariffs which sank the talks on Tuesday.
Meanwhile African countries were just plain angry.
Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the breakdown was "distressing," while Nath turned up to talk to reporters "with a very heavy heart."
"Susan Schwab said she loved me and I said I loved her too," Nath said. "But probably she didn't love me enough. I told her that." China's Commerce Minister Chen Deming called the collapse "a tragic failure," in a statement, as the outcome was mourned by many and cheered by some, including Japanese and South Korean farmers.
Talks collapsed after nine gruelling days of negotiations due to disagreement between India and the United States over the so-called special safeguard mechanism (SSM).
The measure is designed to protect poor farmers, allowing countries to impose a special tariff on certain agricultural goods in the event of an import surge or price fall.
But African countries which had hoped to tackle other issues, such as poor countries' cotton and banana exports, were inconsolable.
"We can hardly control our anger," said Burkina Faso's Tade Minister Mamadou Sanou. Kenya's Trade Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, speaking on behalf of an African grouping, said the collapse "gravely undermines" the fight against poverty.
"Africa's opportunity to achieve fair trade has... been gravely undermined by the lack of progress in these negotiations," said Kanyatta.
"Africa critically needs to realise development and get itself out of poverty through the establishment of fair trade rather than aid."
Ministers had struggled for nine days to reach consensus on subsidy levels and import tariffs for a new deal under the WTO's Doha Round, which has foundered repeatedly since it was launched seven years ago.
Optimism had peaked over the weekend after a breakthrough proposal by the World Trade Organization's Director-General Pascal Lamy. Then efforts ground to a halt. Burkina Faso's minister came to Geneva in the hope of getting a fair deal for his country's cotton farmers " but had to walk away with nothing.
"They wanted me to be here to negotiate on cotton. I have been here for 10 days and I haven't been able to discuss cotton," he said.
"We are most disappointed that the rich countries, champions of liberalisation who urge us to liberalise our markets, those very countries are afraid to trade with us on an equal footing."
Delegates held meetings on Wednesday to discuss the way forward.
Some called for the progress made so far to be preserved, while others have insisted time was needed before a next step could be made.
"We will need to let the dust settle a bit," Lamy said Tuesday. "WTO members will need to have a sober look at if and how they bring the pieces back together."
Schwab lamented that SSMs proved to be such a stumbling block after Lamy's proposal.
"It would have worked, and yet there were others who demanded more. And more included a tool to close markets," Schwab said. "We'd like to believe that there is progress here that we can harvest."
Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, a key broker in the talks and a frank spokesman for the developing world, meanwhile hailed the rise of poor and emerging economies at the negotiating table.
"We all had wished to finalise (a deal), but one thing that we can celebrate is that deals here are no longer made just by the rich countries," he told reporters. "They have to take us into account and that will continue to be so."