Breakthrough likely in WTO talks

London, July 26:

World trade talks showed ‘encouraging signs’ last night which suggested a deal on the so-called Doha round of talks could finally be within reach after seven years.

In the latest round of ‘last ditch’ talks among trade ministers at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, WTO chief Pascal Lamy tabled new proposals which led European Union (EU) trade commissioner Peter Mandelson to declare that a deal was ‘possible’.

With talks set to go on through the night and weekend, Mandelson said, “There has been progress made, yes.” The words were in contrast to gloomy signs from ministers all week.

Mandelson said progress had been made in most areas of the talks, which are focusing on opening up trade in agriculture and industrial goods. A spokesman for Lamy said new ideas to narrow gaps between rich and poor countries had emerged in five hours of talks among seven leading members — Australia, Brazil, China, the EU, India, Japan and the United States — and would be passed to a meeting of ministers from 35 countries for approval.

The Doha round seeks to liberalise trade by reducing import tariffsand trade-distorting subsidies. But Brazil and India have criticised the US and EU for failing to offer big enough cuts in subsidies and import