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Last Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Lamy calls for trade deal revival
Fruit stall in Brazil
Agricultural goods have been the source of much tension
World Trade Organization boss Pascal Lamy has made a fresh appeal for nations to do their utmost to end the current impasse in global trade talks.

Mr Lamy makes his comments at a session of the 149-nation body in Switzerland.

WTO trade ministers are in Geneva for the week in a bid to revive the ongoing Doha round of trade talks, and agree on a new global free trade deal.

The Doha talks have repeatedly missed deadlines due to ongoing disagreements, significantly over agriculture.

At the centre of the logjam is the ongoing disagreement between the US and the European Union over the extent to which they should reduce the levels of support they offer their own farmers, and the import tariffs they put on food and other agricultural products from the developing world.

'Time running out'

Mr Lamy told representatives on Monday that a deal was still possible.

We are on the verge of squandering a once-in-a-generation opportunity
Global Services Coalition

"I do not believe that we have lost the opportunity to produce positive results, but we really have no more time to spare," he said.

Mr Lamy is on Tuesday due to meet with US trade representative Rob Portman, accompanied by Mr Portman's successor Susan Schwab, and Brazil's foreign minister Celso Amorim.

Brazil's position is vital, as it is the leader of the G20 group of developing nations, for whom farm subsidies has been a pivotal issue.

US Deputy Trade Representative Peter Allgeier said real progress was possible during the week.

"We can bring the DDA [Doha Development Agenda] to a successful conclusion by the end of this year if we stay focused on the job at hand and make the necessary decisions," he said.

"We need to do this in the coming weeks."

European demands

One notable absence from the meetings this week in Geneva is EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson.

Talking to BBC news, Mr Mandelson said the US is not matching what the EU is prepared to do regarding agriculture.

"The EU is prepared to give a lot but it can't keep giving and getting nothing in return," he said.

"The US is demanding completely unrealistic tariff reductions in agriculture" which, he said, would be unacceptable to developing nations.

Frustration

There have been growing concerns that the Doha round - which was meant to be finished by 2004 - will not succeed.

Only last week Germany's Economic minister Michael Glos said "something seems to have seized up. There are many reasons which lead me to take the view that the Doha round could fail."

Frustration over the latest trade talks has not been limited to politicians.

The business lobby, the Global Services Coalition, also voiced its concern over the missed deadline.

"We are on the verge of squandering a once-in-a-generation opportunity".

"Not only could we lose what is already on the table but we will be set back for years any hope of multilateral progress in agricultural reform, tariff reduction and services liberalisation," the coalition stated.

US negotiating authority to agree a deal in Congress expires in July 2007.




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