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Trade Officials Promote Completion Of Doha Round

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

At the conclusion of two and a half days of meetings at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, trade officials from 153 nations made a strong commitment to conclude the Doha Round of trade liberalization negotiations in 2010.

The Doha Round, started in 2001, has been bogged down as a result of differences between developed and developing nations on a number of issues, and while there was a good deal of talk about the economic importance of trade, little in the form of specific commitments came out of the meetings. Although WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said there is "political energy" to move the talks forward, a good deal of skepticism surrounded the sessions.

In a statement following the meetings, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said: "WTO members have repeatedly committed this year to moving the Doha Round forward. It is time to act on those commitments, move outside of our comfort zones and make the hard choices required of those who would lead the WTO." He added that "the proof is in the pudding."

Kirk repeatedly underscored the importance of creating greater market access throughout the world and said the United States believes it is important to "rebalance" the Doha Round to ensure it creates better opportunities for US exports. While Kirk, in his public statement and a press conference following the meetings, did not mention the concerns of US manufacturing industries over the impact of imports on the economy, he said only that was pleased that the WTO members had not turned to "protectionist measures" during the world economic crisis.

Kirk said: "In the US we recognize trade can be an important pillar of growing economic recovery and economic recovery at home, particularly by creating the well paying jobs that Americans want and need. He assured the less developed countries that the US recognizes the necessity of the Round for the poorest countries "to which the Obama Administration has made a special commitment."

Chile's Finance Minister Andrés Velasco, who chaired the ministerial meetings, said there has been a "strong convergence" on the importance of trade and the Doha Round to economic recovery and poverty alleviation in developing countries. He said the "development dimension" should remain central to the Round and "particular attention should be paid to issues of importance to developing countries."

The ministers agreed to have a stock-taking meeting during the first quarter of 2010.

December 8, 2009