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Davos world trade meeting makes progress

WTO head Pascal Lamy (left) and Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard were hoping to revive trade talks Keystone

A Swiss-organised meeting of ministers, which was held in Davos, on resuming world trade talks has resulted in a pledge to restart the process.

This content was published on January 27, 2007 - 13:53

A statement from the Swiss Economics Ministry on Saturday said that the around 30 participants had clearly expressed a renewed commitment to put the stalled talks back on track.

But observers said the outcome was a disappointment after business and political leaders had earlier called for firm progress in the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

The meeting, which included trade ministers from the United States, the European Union, Brazil, India and WTO head Pascal Lamy, was held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

It was the first attempt by ministers at reviving the WTO's Doha round on liberalising international trade since negotiations collapsed last July over agriculture and tariff issues.

The Swiss economics ministry statement reported that in the meeting ministers had underlined the need for a more comprehensive approach to negotiations and had shared the view that an "inclusive process that allows for all sensitivities to be expressed" was the best way of achieving a successful outcome.

"They expressed a strong wish for a quick resumption of full-scale activity in Geneva [where the WTO has its headquarters] and discussed the prerequisites for taking advantage of the window opportunity for making substantial progress," it added.

Speaking after the gathering, Leuthard, called for more flexibility from those taking part in the discussions and for more sectors, apart from agriculture, to be included in the negotiations.

No timetable

For his part Lamy said that there had been a more optimistic atmosphere, but added that no timetable had been set for further discussions.

The return to talks had been widely supported by global business leaders and top politicians. Both Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had sounded confident about progress on Friday.

On Thursday, around 65 figures from the business world warned that failure to reach a new trade deal would undermine the world's economic growth.

The Doha round was launched in 2001, but has repeatedly stalled. The 150 members of the WTO have agreed it should be designed to help developing countries, while opening up new markets for industrialised nations.

Both the US and EU want developing countries like Brazil and India to open their economies to industrial goods and services.

Developing nations argue that in return the US and EU should cut agricultural subsidies and tariffs.

Switzerland has also been defending its own agricultural policies while pushing for liberalisation of services and lower tariffs for industry. Swiss farmers are among the world's most subsidised.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Doha Round of global trade talks began in 2001. The 150 members of the WTO have been negotiating on the liberalisation of trade of goods and services.

Switzerland presides over the G10, a group of nine countries that are leading net importers of agricultural products. The members include South Korea, Japan, Norway, Iceland, Israel and Taiwan.

Switzerland has rejected WTO calls to lower farm subsidies and import tariffs on agricultural products, while pushing for liberalisation of services and lower tariffs for industry.

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Anti-WEF protests

Saturday also saw two anti-WEF demonstrations in Switzerland.

One took place in Basel, where it was reported that up to 1,000 people took part. Police said it was mostly peaceful, except for a group of around 50 people who became aggressive. Two police officers were injured.

In Davos itself another, smaller protest took place of about 200 people. This was a peaceful demonstration with participants carrying banners against globalisation and the WEF meeting.

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