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Preview / Sept. 12-18

WTO Negotiators to Focus on Agriculture

September 12, 2005|From Reuters

Starting Tuesday, world trade negotiators will try to do in three months what they have failed to do in more than three years: clinch a deal to free up global trade.

The World Trade Organization's so-called Doha round, launched in 2001, missed its 2004 target for conclusion, and member states will now try to wrap up most of the hard bargaining by the time ministers meet in Hong Kong in mid-December.

A pact could inject more than $500 billion a year into the world's economy and lift millions of people out of poverty, according to economists.

But the negotiations are locked in wrangling over subsidies and opening markets for goods including agricultural products and services such as telecommunications and tourism.

Negotiators agree that the key to an outline deal in Hong Kong, which would clear the way for a complete accord in 2006, is progress in agriculture, an issue on which poorer nations, and exporters such as Australia, accuse rich nations of denying them markets with their farm subsidies and high tariffs.

And it is on agriculture that negotiators will focus when they resume negotiations Tuesday.

Diplomats said that the signs were not good that the opening week would see a change of gear after the disappointment of July, when states failed to produce hoped-for accords in farm and industrial trade. They said that negotiators were waiting for the United States and the European Union to indicate what they could offer on domestic farm support, or subsidies, and import tariffs, matters on which both powers have been reluctant to move.

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