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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 11:17 GMT
World trade deal edges closer
Pascal Lamy, EU trade commissioner
Pascal Lamy: 'Authorised to say yes to the deal'
Ben Brown

A new round of global trade negotiations is moving closer to being launched, as the six-day ministerial meeting in Doha draws to a close.

The European Union has agreed to a revised draft proposal of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"I am authorized as the European Union negotiator to say yes to the text which has been tabled," said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

Negotiators had worked through the night to find an acceptable draft agreement and overcome big remaining differences, after the trade talks overran their scheduled conclusion.

Final Objections?

The EU emerged as a big winner overnight, after making some concessions on agriculture.

In return for the EU's concessions, negotiators agreed to stronger language on trade and the environment, something very important to European public opinion.

They also ensured that two other new areas, investment and competition policy, would be included in future trade deals.

But all 142 countries need to agree to the deal before the new trade round is launched.

Developing countries have already made some gains in the negotiations - but many are still concerned by the ambitious scope of the plans.

India is thought to be the most reluctant country to agree to the deal.

However, there are rumours that India will go ahead and sign the deal because it does not want to be the country that scuppers the talks.

The trade negotiators earlier agreed a deal to help developing countries gain access to cheap medicines by easing patent laws should there be a health emergency.

High hopes

World leaders have set high hopes on an agreement, in order to revive confidence in the world trading system as the world faces an economic slowdown.

And while the breakthrough with the EU is seen as one of the last remaining hurdles to overcome, other countries can still veto the deal at the last moment.

The final text of the agreement is still being thrashed out just hours before many delegates are due to be boarding planes to return home.

Debates were continuing among delegates at the luxury Sheraton resort on the Gulf coast, even as security personnel and hotel workers began to dismantle the conference offices.

Some small countries were trying to gain further concessions from the EU before agreeing to a deal, especially on the import of tuna.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Walker reports from Doha
"They are trying to resolve problems developing countries have had"
Anthony Gooch, Pascal Lamy's spokesman
"The WTO needs to bring itself into the 21st century"
See also:

14 Nov 01 | Business
'Last shot' at trade deal
12 Nov 01 | Business
Luxury and squalor in Doha
08 Nov 01 | Business
Doha on high alert
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