March 4, 2009 / 6:48 AM / 10 years ago

WTO chief hopes for new trade talks in northern summer

CANBERRA (Reuters) - A meeting of world trade ministers to finalise the Doha Round of negotiations could be held early in the northern hemisphere summer, World Trade Organisation director-general Pascal Lamy said on Wednesday.

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy during a meeting at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, July 21, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Negotiations could be reconvened once the new United States administration had established its trade policies and India had held general elections, Lamy told reporters in Canberra.

Lamy said the G20 meeting of trade ministers in four weeks could lay the ground work to restart the talks, which stalled last year when a final agreement could not be reached on two key areas, agriculture and industry.

“What I hope is that before the summer break there will be a window of opportunity to bring them back,” he said.

The G20 group of rich and emerging nations in November called for ministers to outline a deal by the end of 2008 but Lamy did not call a meeting of trade ministers because political differences were too wide, and the new U.S. administration was yet to take office.

Lamy said reaching a final agreement last year would have paved the way for the completion of other areas of Doha Round such as services negotiations, the reduction of fisheries subsidies as well as addressing trade related environmental issues.

“These subjects would have gained steam had we been successful last year but, to our great dismay, agreement proved elusive,” said Lamy.

There were also concerns about a new wave of protectionism in response to the global economic crisis but “there has been limited evidence so far of isolationist moves,” said Lamy, adding that the WTO was keeping a watch on any moves that might hinder trade.

He said the WTO was also working to improve the availability of finance for trade, acting as a facilitator in talks with governments and regional banks aimed at creating liquidity pools which could be tapped to fund trade.

Countries running substantial trade surpluses would be in the best position to contribute to the proposed liquidity pools.

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