WTO insists deal is possible

The director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) might call world leaders back to Geneva in a bid to salvage global trade discussions.

In a statement at UNCTAD on 16 September, Pascal Lamy said that depending on the progress made by negotiators, he was ready to call ministers back to Geneva to try and resolve the issues that caused discussions to collapse in July.

He concluded that the reasons to conclude the Doha round are becoming more and more critical by the day, as the world's "economic and financial outlook continues to deteriorate".

"I am convinced that a deal is still possible. I still believe that, with yet another push, we could still reach our target," he said.

"Although we are not quite there in terms of an agreement, we have moved a long way. I believe it is in all members' interests, big and small, to reach an agreement, and to do so sooner rather than later."

Lamy added that a "freer and fairer" trading system was important for the development of the world's poorer countries.

The WTO works under the principle of "single undertaking", which means that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The Doha round will therefore not close until agreement has been found on all topics in the agenda.

The last round of ministerial talks collapsed after a row developed between India, China and the US over agricultural safeguards.

Lamy insisted that ministers needed to come back to the table and work through their disagreements to save the work done so far in the Doha round. He added that a conclusion to the round would help ease the current food crisis.

"A comprehensive WTO deal can help soften the impact of high prices by tackling the current systemic distortions in international agricultural trade that have stifled food production and investment in agriculture for years in many developing countries," he said.

The Intenational Meat Trade Association (IMTA) said that tightening meat supplies are posing a real threat to the industry, and the failure of multilateral trade agreements could be a disaster for the British meat industry.

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