Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Saturday, 31 January 2009

Ministers promise 2009 trade deal

By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website, in Davos

Unsold cars and vans sit on the dockside at Grimsby, UK
Governments face domestic pressure to protect vulnerable industries

Trade ministers from 24 countries have pledged that they will agree a new world trade deal by the end of 2009.

The move comes amid worries that the global economic crisis could prompt some countries to erect trade barriers to protect struggling industries.

Several leaders, from UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel have warned this would hit the poorest the hardest.

Negotiations in the so-called Doha trade round have been stuck for years.

Talks to agree more details would resume ahead of the G20 summit of leading nations in April in London, said Swiss Economy Minister Doris Leuthard.

Criticism

Trade ministers traditionally meet at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss a way forward.

However, most of these talks in previous years ended with similarly optimistic statements, while agreed timetables were never met when negotiations resumed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.

Earlier on Saturday, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown had told an Davos audience that protectionism would protect nobody and mainly hurt the poor.

On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had also spoken out against protectionism.

She specifically criticised the US administration for providing state aid to troubled carmakers GM and Chrysler, which she said was akin to a trade barrier.

Ms Leuthard said all governments had to build a better understanding of the benefits of trade in their home countries.

The WTO's director general Pascal Lamy warned that ministers were "worried because they are under domestic political pressure and because trade could go down the toilet".



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