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Doha trade talks at impasse

PARIS, May 27 – The Doha Round of trade liberalisation talks is at an "impasse", the head of the WTO said on Thursday, as Washington urged Brazil, China and India to make bigger steps towards a deal.

World Trade Organization director general Pascal Lamy said following talks between trade ministers here, that the long-deadlocked talks were at an "impasse" because of three main obstacles: services, fisheries and environmental goods.

Lamy said: "Technically it (a deal) can be done provided (agreement is reached) on these three issues which still remain too open at this stage."

Lamy said, in a reference to the global economic crisis: "The reason for concluding the round is more appealing now than at any point before."

Trade liberalisation was a "low-cost package of stimulus," he argued.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said it was up to Brazil, China and India to accelerate a deal.

"The real question is whether India, China and Brazil frankly are ready to assume a role and responsibility commensurate with the benefits that they have realised under global liberalisation."

He said: "We are not going to negotiate against ourselves. It\’s now time for others to be creative. We have gone far and above what is expected…to break this impasse."

The meeting here concerned informal talks between trade ministers who were attending an annual ministerial meeting at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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The Doha Round of negotiations began in 2001 and has over-run a number of deadlines for completion. The latest deadline is the end of this year. The purpose is to deepen and extend long-term opening up of world trade under a system of rules and arbitration.

The negotiations have focused on dismantling obstacles to trade for poor nations by striking an accord which would cut subsidies for agriculture and tariffs on industrial goods.

Discussions have been dogged by disagreements over various issues, including how much the United States and the European Unity should reduce aid to their farmers and the extent to which developing countries such as India and China should lower tariffs on imports.

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