‘Now or never for world trade deal’

London, October 26:

The world is at a ‘now or never moment’ to rescue talks on a global trade deal, British finance minister Gordon Brown said in an interview published in the Financial Times on Thursday.

“The groundwork has already been done and there is a chance from November onwards to move the trade talks onwards,” said chancellor of the exchequer Brown, the favourite to succeed prime minister Tony Blair when he steps down next year.

“I would like global companies to stress to people the importance of this. This is a now or never moment to get the trade talks on course for a settlement. The symbolic importance of this is far more significant than is realised.”

The so-called Doha Round of talks among World Trade Organisation (WTO) members ground to a halt in July amid bitter differences, especially over the lack of concessions on agriculture products by the industialised nations which held up negotiations on industrial goods and services.

The talks aimed at encouraging free trade and striking down protectionism which began in 2001 have consistently been dogged by disputes between rich and poor nations, as well as among wealthy players such as the US and EU.

“I do believe that, on agriculture, if you look at the negotiating positions of Europe and America, there is scope for movement that could enable India and Brazil to make the concessions for a trade agreement,” said Brown.

The paper said the minister’s comments reflected the hopes of some in the British government that the US will intensify negotiations to get a trade deal before President George W. Bush’s “fast track” authority to negotiate expires next summer.

Brown also trumpeted successes in the British economy.

“We have more business investment, manufacturing output is up, exports are doing relatively well. So the economy is becoming more balanced as we move throughout the year.”