WTO says 'too early' for ministers to meet on Doha

GENEVA:World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy said Monday that he was against inviting ministers to a meeting in March which is aimed at driving forward negotiations for a global trade liberalisation pact.

While acknowledging that political commitment was needed to conclude the Doha Round of talks, Lamy also assessed that it was "too early" to call on ministers to make such a push at the end of next month.

"On... the political decision about 2010, I believe this is a judgment that belongs to ministers and that, on this specific issue, engagement will be needed," he told diplomats representing the WTO's 153-member states.

"Given where we are right now, it is also clear, however, that the end of March is too early for that," added the director-general of the WTO.

Lamy said that the meeting in March, aimed at taking stock of the progress in negotiations, would be "best undertaken by senior officials at this stage."

Lamy had earlier warned that WTO member states risk missing the 2010 target set by world leaders for reaching a long delayed global trade pact unless there was a breakthrough by the end of the first quarter.

The Doha Round of negotiations for a trade liberalisation deal began in 2001 with a focus on dismantling obstacles to trade for poor nations, by aiming for a deal that would cut agriculture subsidies and tariffs on industrial goods.

Deadlines to conclude the talks have been repeatedly missed.

Discussions have been dogged by disagreements, including on how much the United States and the European Union should reduce aid to their farmers and the extent to which developing countries such as India and China should lower tariffs.