World Bank's Zoellick urges U.S. drive for Doha deal

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.S. leadership could be the vital spark needed to revive moribund world trade talks, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Monday, decrying as defeatist the mindset of those prepared to see the deal fail.

Expanding on a speech in which he said World Trade Organization members should "double down on Doha," Zoellick, who was U.S. Trade Representative for four years, said the Obama Administration should take the initiative and champion a deal.

"The world needs a global growth strategy, and opening trade drives growth," he told a news conference. "We've seen it with proven effectiveness all throughout the past 60 or 70 years, so why not revive Doha?"

Zoellick dismissed the idea of chasing a mini-trade deal by the end of 2011, a second-best option now in the sights of WTO Director General Pascal Lamy.

"In the conversations that I've had, people are finding that the mini deal will probably be about as hard as the big deal, and people predict they won't be able to close that, for a lot of detailed reasons. So I urge a turnaround."

Zoellick said Doha offered the United States a deal that was "beyond proportionality" in several areas -- committing it to smaller tariff cuts in several key areas than other nations -- and several U.S. policies were pushing in the same direction as Doha.

"The United States is going to be cutting agricultural subsidies as part of its budget deal. There was just an agreement in the U.S. Congress to cut not only ethanol tariffs but the ethanol subsidy," Zoellick said.

"I think the facts speak for themselves on whether you have excuses or leadership," he said.

"This can't be done by the negotiators in Geneva. So frankly this idea that people would test some of this with ambassadors or lower level people in Geneva -- you're never going to get a breakthrough that way."

By taking the lead, the U.S. negotiators could start by consulting China, and then bring in India and African countries, each of which has an interest in a Doha deal, he said.

If such an attempt failed, it would be clear who stopped it.

But the office of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk rejected Zoellick's implied criticism, and placed the blame partly on the original framers of the Doha deal -- which included Kirk's predecessor Zoellick.

"For more than two years, the Obama administration has been the chief proponent of greater ambition in the Doha Round," Kirk's office said in a statement.

Zoellick said Doha was on deathwatch, but it was time to act boldly to try to save it for the sake of the world economy.

"You get more and more people who say 'let's put Doha to bed'. I think that would be a huge mistake. so I think it's important to offer an alternative view."

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington; editing by Tim Pearce)