WTO boss says talks are in "crisis"


World Trade Organisation (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy has warned that a continuing deadlock in global trade talks has led to a "crisis" situation.

Speaking after the latest negotiations in Geneva to rescue the so-called "Doha-round" fell apart, Mr Lamy said: "I will not beat about the bush. We are now in a crisis."

"The only good news I have is that no one, and I repeat no one, appears to want to throw in the towel," he added.

Mr Lamy was urged by trade ministers attending the weekend talks to help them broker a deal on key issues such as agricultural subsidies and tariffs, in order to prevent five years of negotiations between them from ending in failure.

The WTO boss has been asked to convene a special meeting between the leading six players in the talks, the so-called Group of Six (G6), comprising the United States, the European Union (EU), Brazil, India, Australia and Japan.

Trade ministers hope that such a meeting would allow a consensus to be achieved between the six countries, so that they could then present a deal to the WTO's remaining 119 governments.

Developing nations are currently at loggerheads with the EU and the US, claiming that they are failing to put sufficient offers to reduce farm subsidies and import tariffs on the negotiating table.

Meanwhile developed countries claim that nations such as India and Brazil are not doing enough to open their markets to manufactured goods, with the developing countries claiming that customs tariffs are needed to protect their emerging businesses.

Trade ministers have until the end of this month to reach an agreement on draft proposals for lowering import duties and subsidies, with a final deal due to be signed at the end of the year.

With the Doha round of trade talks already long delayed, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson warned: "If we don't turn things around in the next two weeks, we will not make a breakthrough this summer and then we will be facing defeat."

Timing is crucial to the success of the world trade talks, as US president George Bush will lose his special authority to negotiate trade deals in a year's time, meaning that he will find it harder to get congressional approval for any measures WTO negotiators might agree.

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