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Final WTO agreement possible - WTO chief
Updated: 2005-11-14 16:53

A final agreement in global trade talks is possible, World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy said in an interview with The Independent.

"It's not mission impossible," Lamy told the paper, referring to the Doha Round of talks launched by the WTO in the Qatari capital in late 2001.

"Everybody will have to move," he added, while admitting that current "positions are too different" to allow for an agreement soon.

Ruling out an accord among WTO member states when they gather in Hong Kong next month, Lamy said, "it is better to stage Hong Kong as a step forward rather than a big, make-or-break, brinkmanship aim."

"The areas that are most visible, agriculture, industrial tariffs and services, are only the most important part of that. Many issues remain: anti-dumping, regional trade, and trade and environment," he said.

The "WTO is a big truck, not a Formula One car," he added.

"After Seattle, it took nearly two years to produce proposals, after Cancun it was nearly one year," he said referring to earlier meetings in Canada and Mexico.

The European Union's top official Jose Manuel Barroso had said Sunday that next month's World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong were headed for failure chiefly because of the intransigence of Brazil and the United States.

Europe had put forward proposals that were a "very important step" and it was up to countries such as the United States and Brazil to make concessions, Barroso told Europe 1 radio and the TV5 television channel.

"If they don't move in the areas of services and agriculture, it could be that there will be failure," Barroso said.

Speaking in Seoul Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer called Monday for urgent action to prevent a deadlock over agriculture from torpedoing the world trade talks.

"Time is running out," Downer said, referring to the meeting in Hong Kong.

"For the round to move forward in the other crucial areas of non-agricultural market access and services, the impasse on agriculture must be resolved urgently," Downer said in a speech.

Downer's was speaking prior to his departure for this week's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC) forum ministerial talks in the southern port city of Busan. Ministerial talks are followed by a leaders meeting on Friday and Saturday.

Downer said South Korea and Australia, co-founders of APEC, "recognise the importance of a credible outcome" to the current WTO ministerial round of trade liberalizaton talks launched in Doha in 2001.

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