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Ministers hopeful to break deadlock over global trade accord


GENEVA, Jan 29 (Xinhua): Trade ministers ending a meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos said yesterday they were hopeful of breaking a deadlock over a global free trade accord to strike a deal by the end of the year.
They said agreement had been reached on a timetable for a deal on lowering barriers in major areas of the global economy, Swiss Radio International reported. "We have a precise timetable which will allow us to measure progress. There is also a strong commitment to push ahead and conclude the talks based on the meeting in Hong Kong in December," said Swiss Economics Minister Joseph Deiss, who hosted the informal ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum conference.
The timetable was designed to set intermediate targets showing what and when negotiators should achieve in the detailed technical talks over the coming weeks and months, Deiss said.
Ministers from some 20 World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, including the US, the EU, Japan, Brasil, India, etc., were present at the two-day gathering, which was the first ministerial meeting since a conference in Hong Kong last December.
The Hong Kong conference concluded with an agreement to remove all farm export subsidies by 2013, a swift end to cotton subsidies and the opening of rich country markets to more goods from the world's poorest nations.
But the 149 WTO members failed to achieve the full framework for the Doha Round launched in 2001, leaving out the most contentious issues, especially those on farm trade.
While being optimistic on a final trade deal, Deiss warned Saturday that a lot of work still lay ahead for the WTO members.
"We have just reached the beginning of the final stage. But flexibility and a willingness to compromise is crucial for a successful conclusion of the trade deal," he said.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy also said at the meeting that 40 per cent of work still remained to be done to wrap up the Doha round of trade liberalisation negotiations.
"There was a shared but sober realisation of what needs to be done," Lamy told journalists.