WTO talks on liberalizing world trade continue in Geneva

A key round of talks in Geneva aimed at reviving the World Trade Organization's Doha Round will continue after a break-off was prevented as a result of concessions made the previous day above all by industrialized states, diplomats said Saturday, dpa reported.

Diplomatic sources said the concessions included an offer by the United States to reduce the cap on subsidies for its agricultural produce limit to 14.5 billion dollars a year.

The US had already reduced this to 15 billion from an original figure of 16.4 billion. The sources said a reduction by European Union countries of EU tariffs by 80 per cent - instead of the 60 per cent already offered - was now widely expected.

In return, the EU is looking to the major developing countries, such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico, to make similar cuts in their tariffs on industrial goods and services provided by the industrialized countries.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said when the talks opened last Monday the EU was ready to abolish all subsidies on agricultural exports if there was agreement on the Doha Round, which has been running for almost seven years.

The EU supports the WTO's new compromise paper, Mandelson said in Geneva Saturday.

"We are closer to an agreement than we ever have been in the past seven years," he said.

Mandelson told BBC radio that the chances of an agreement had risen from 50/50 to 75 per cent.

"It is not a done deal yet: there are a number of other very difficult topics which we are yet to tackle in the coming days. But what's different is that we do have a core package and we have a lot of goodwill from developing countries to speed us on in our work."

The United States had already made clear its commitment to securing a successful conclusion to the trade liberalization talks, but observers said there was still much hard bargaining to do.

The Doha Round, named after the Qatari capital where it began in November 2001, has been deadlocked for years. The impasse can be broken only by unanimous agreement between all 153 member countries.

Almost 40 ministers from all the major trading blocs have been negotiating this week in Geneva in what has been described as a last- ditch attempt to break the deadlock.

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