( dpa ) - The spectre of US recession could drive the world towards greater protectionism that could jeopardize attempts to revive the Doha round of trade talks this year, the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday.
He said attempting to revitalise the stalled trade talks at Davos would be a "fantastic thing" and should be a "major priority" but events in the global economy could make concessions to remove agriculture subsidies and barriers difficult.
"At a time of economic challenge the pressures politically will be protectionist rather than towards more open trade," he said.
He was speaking at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum underway in the mountain resort of Davos in eastern Switzerland.
On the panel alongside Blair, former US Secretary of State and Nobel Peace prize winner Henry Kissinger said: "This is not a great year in America for far-sighted international economic policies."
Referring to the US primary elections, he added: "I'm sure you are going to hear a lot of talk that not only sounds protectionist but is protectionist."
Technical discussions have been progressing in Geneva ever since the talks, known as the developing round and launched in Qatar in 2001, were brought back to life at Davos last year.
The talks aimed at liberalizing trade between developed and emerging countries collapsed in 2006 in deadlock between rich countries reluctant to dismantle farm subsidies and emerging nations unwilling to cut tariffs on industrial imports.
The head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, is in Davos and is due to meet with trade minister on the fringes of the forum.
He has said he believed the talks can be concluded this year. Earlier this week EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said they believed the basis of agreement could be reached by the spring.