WTO Meeting In Hong Kong Likely To Disappoint

Manufacturing executives and others hoping next month's meeting in Hong Kong of trade ministers from the 148 nations belonging to the World Trade Organization (WTO) would produce the kind of agreement necessary to complete the Doha Round of international trade talks in 2006 are likely to be disappointed. Roughly a month before the Hong Kong confab is set to begin wide disagreement remains on several issues particularly deal-breaking agricultural subsidies and market access.

The current round of WTO negotiations, which were begun in Doha, Qatar, in 2001 and include reducing tariff and nontariff barriers to trade in manufactured goods, have been marked by delays and disagreements. The round is not yet being written off as a failure, but it now appears that completing the talks before mid-2007, when U.S. President George W. Bush's trade negotiating authority expires, will require either a dramatic political breakthrough or adoption of a less ambitious agenda.

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