WTO's Lamy says trade deal doable in '08

1/06/2008 - 22:24

By Jean Luis Arce

AREQUIPA, Peru (Reuters) - World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy said on Sunday developed and developing nations could still wrap up the Doha round of talks on a global trade deal this year.

"I still believe it's doable this year," Lamy told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting of trade ministers from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the southern Peruvian city of Arequipa.

"We know how to get there. We need to cross this bridge of agricultural subsidies, industrial tariffs and agricultural tariffs soon, now, because otherwise we will not have enough time to cross this bridge to finish the road."

The WTO's Doha negotiations to bring down barriers to global trade are now in their seventh year but face a crucial test in the next few weeks, after which the U.S. presidential election may cause years of further delay.

APEC trade ministers issued a manifesto in Arequipa on Sunday urging negotiating nations to take immediate steps to prop up the limping Doha round.

The round has sputtered and gained momentum a handful of times since it was launched in November 2001, snared usually on differences between developed nations and major developing countries like China and India.

"We have been working on these for years and years and there's now something on the table that with a few adjustments can materialize and I don't think that there is a sort of trade-off between ambition and timing," Lamy said.

Intense negotiations this year have helped push along talks, especially on agricultural issues that are key to a successful round.

In industrial goods, the other key hurdle, diplomats say WTO members are at last starting to engage seriously.

Lamy said countries were progressing and all the actors were ready to smooth out remaining issues, including areas like anti-dumping rules, fishery subsidies, environmental goods and environmental services.

"Does this mean success is guaranteed? No. It remains a negotiation and we still have to try and clean the ground," he said.

(Reporting by Jean Luis Arce; Writing by Pav Jordan; Editing by Eric Beech and Todd Eastham)

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