From: Reuters
Published May 13, 2008 02:40 AM

WTO chief says trade deal still possible in 2008

PARIS (Reuters) - It is still possible to reach a deal on long-delayed world trade negotiations before the end of the year, the head of the World Trade Organisation said in an interview published on Tuesday.

"There are the political and technical conditions to wrap things up in 2008," the WTO's Pascal Lamy told the Les Echos newspaper, adding that the accord needed to be struck this month or next to give time for the final texts to be prepared.

The WTO's Doha negotiations for a global trade deal were launched in 2001 to help poor countries export more and to boost the global economy. But they have missed a string of deadlines due to deep differences over how to lower barriers to exports.

The WTO wants to hold ministerial talks this month to secure a breakthrough in the trade round. Although no date has yet been set for this meeting, Lamy said it could still happen.

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"It is still feasible. The major political leaders are all agreed that we need to complete the negotiations by the end of the year," Lamy said.

He added that to do that, WTO members still needed to reach an accord on three areas -- agricultural subsidies, and agricultural and industrial custom tariffs.

Without a deal soon, the changeover of administrations in Washington and Brussels in 2009 risk causing several more years of delay, adding to concerns that support for free trade is giving way to protectionism as economic growth slows.

Talks have intensified in recent weeks but there has not been enough progress for the WTO to summon ministers to Geneva for a push for the long-elusive breakthrough in the round.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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