London Talks Seen As Last-ditch Effort To Salvage WTO Round

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said on Nov. 2 that a gathering of five key players in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in London next week would be critical to salvaging the effort to revamp global trade rules. "If we can't pull it together next week I think it's very difficult" to craft a deal on the Doha Round of trade talks under the WTO Portman told U.S. lawmakers.

Senior trade ministers and officials from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India and the U.S. are scheduled to meet in London on November 7 in an effort to salvage the floundering talks, Portman said, confirming comments earlier in the day from European diplomats.

The 148 governments in the WTO are struggling to prepare for a December conference in Hong Kong, where they hope to approve the broad outlines of a multilateral accord cutting customs duties, subsidies and other barriers to commerce. The WTO aims to start drafting documents for the Hong Kong meeting by mid-November. Although all members must approve the deal, an agreement between the five trading powers is seen as crucial because they epitomize many of the diverging interests at the WTO.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005

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