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Tue, Dec 02, 2008 - Page 10 News List

WTO looks for new proposals before decision

EASING BARRIERSSenior officials have been meeting to try to work out conflicts on key issues that caused a previous ministerial meeting to collapse last summer

AFP , GENEVA

WTO head Pascal Lamy is awaiting fresh proposals on the thorny issues of agriculture and industrial products before deciding on any ministerial meeting, trade sources said on Sunday.

Speculation is growing in Geneva that Lamy will call ministers before the end of the year in yet another attempt to finally clinch a deal on global trade liberalization after seven years of impasse, false starts and disagreements.

The target is to get texts by the end of the coming week, trade sources told journalists.

The chairs of the agriculture and industrial products negotiating groups, Crawford Falconer of New Zealand and Luzius Wasescha of Switzerland respectively, will now consult with members and Lamy to try to arrive at proposals that could be placed before ministers.

Senior officials have been meeting at WTO headquarters throughout last week to try to iron out differences on key sticking points that caused a previous ministerial meeting in July to collapse.

Progress has been made but there are still many differences between the WTO’s 153 member states, with the key areas of cotton and the “special safeguard mechanism” — a means for poor farmers to hike tariffs in the event of an import surge — remaining “problematic,” sources said.

Brazil’s WTO ambassador Roberto Azevedo told reporters it was still uncertain on what dates any meeting could be held, or indeed if it would take place at all.

Trade sources said that given the current work schedule, it would be “tight” to hold any summit in the early part of the Dec. 10 to Dec. 19 range that has been bandied about in WTO circles here.

Launched in the Qatari capital in late 2001, the WTO’s Doha Round has foundered ever since in disputes between developed and developing countries on such matters as easing barriers to trade in agricultural and industrial products.

Developing countries are seeking greater access to industrialized markets for their agricultural goods.

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