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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Time running out for trade talks
WTO chief Pascal Lamy
Pascal Lamy faces a busy month ahead
World Trade Organization boss Pascal Lamy has embarked upon a hectic schedule of meetings in a final bid to reach a global free trade agreement.

Mr Lamy promised to "crack heads" in the search for consensus after talks at the WTO's Geneva base failed last week.

He flies to Japan on Tuesday to see prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Meanwhile, he is trying to convene a last-ditch summit of the US, Australia, the European Union, Japan, Brazil, and India before an end of July deadline.

It could happen at, or just before the meeting of G8 leaders in St Petersburg, Russia, beginning on 15 July.

Counter claims

The trade issue should be on the agenda at the meeting because the leaders made a pledge to work towards cutting subsidies and tariffs at their last summit in Gleneagles last summer.

Some trade experts now think that only a concerted effort by world leaders can push through the trade concessions that negotiators have been unable to achieve.

Last week's Geneva meeting ended with the WTO's 149 members unable to reach agreement on plans to eliminate or lower export and import barriers.

Developing nations such as Brazil and India continue to argue that the developed countries - particularly the US and European Union (EU) members - are not offering up enough reductions on farm subsidies and import tariffs.

The US and EU counter that they are prepared to make significant concessions, and that the developing countries are in turn not going far enough on opening up their markets to manufactured goods.

The US came under particular criticism for its unwillingness to reduce the subsidies it pays farmers.

Cost of ambition

On Monday EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told the BBC that the US "wants ambition" for the world trade talks, but was "not prepared to pay enough for that ambition".

"I am simply asking the US - as I am asking others - not to ask so much from others that they are not prepared to match by putting in a comparable amount to enable these talks to come to a successful conclusion."

With the so-called Doha round of trade talks already long delayed, trade ministers currently have until the end of July to agree on outline proposals, ahead of the final deal being signed by the end of this year.

The timing is a real concern, as a year from now the special authority US President George W Bush has to negotiate trade deals will expire.

After that it will be harder for him to get Congressional approval, and if the US cannot deliver on whatever its negotiators might agree, other countries will not want to either.




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