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ACLI Executive Hopes For Progress In Trade Talks

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U.S. life insurers still have a chance to benefit from World Trade Organization negotiations, despite the recent suspension of the “Doha round.”

“The talks are not dead, just suspended, and suspensions have happened before,” says Brad Smith, vice president of international relations at the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington.

Smith says he expects to see the talks resume in September.

“We’re prepared to go back to the table immediately,” Smith says.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy decided to suspend the Doha round of talks last week, after discussions about agricultural trade issues stalled.

Although 140 countries are participating in WTO negotiations relating to insurance, U.S. insurers are focusing mainly on large, emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India, Smith says.

U.S. insurers are seeking full market access, equal treatment with domestic companies and pro-competitive regulation for insurers, Smith says.

“Insurance and financial services issues generally are not contentious issues,” Smith says.

At this point, “because of the disagreement over agricultural issues, the negotiations [have] not produced a critical mass of insurance commitments,” Smith says.

But, compared with negotiations relating to trade in goods, “services, specifically insurance, is a much more qualitative negotiation, requiring detailed commitments on revisions to insurance regulations,” Smith says.