WTO makes last-ditch attempt to launch new trade round in Seattle

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The Independent Online

Michael Moore, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, will make a last-ditch attempt to launch a new trade round in Seattle next week, after a meeting of officials to draft a preliminary communique for the World Trade Organisation's ministerial meeting broke up without agreement yesterday.

Michael Moore, the director general of the World Trade Organisation, will make a last-ditch attempt to launch a new trade round in Seattle next week, after a meeting of officials to draft a preliminary communique for the World Trade Organisation's ministerial meeting broke up without agreement yesterday.

United States and European Union envoys speaking in Geneva yesterday were gloomy about the chances of getting a new deal launching a global round of trade liberalisation at the high profile and controversial meeting. Rita Hayes, the US trade ambassador, said: "It is now going to be very difficult for the ministers in Seattle." The EU's ambassador Roderick Abbot said the situation was "very confused".

Efforts in the past week to produce an agreed draft declaration have failed.

Little of the 32-page draft has yet been agreed, with big differences on agriculture, the scope of tariff reductions on industrial goods, and on whether developing states can be allowed more time to implement past accords blocking agreement.

However, others were more optimistic about the chances of a Seattle Declaration announcing a "millennium round" of talks on reducing trade barriers and sharing the fruits of trade with developing countries.

Mr Moore will produce a shorter draft for ministers to discuss that will leave the door open for further negotiations on difficult details without derailing the new trade round.

Although the process of preliminary negotiation is well behind the usual timetable, trade talks inevitably involve a lot of last-minute concessions.

"The US does not want a shambles in Seattle. The mood music is improving," said one source.

In its annual report yesterday the WTO painted an upbeat picture of the outlook for trade, saying trade in goods would expand by 6 per cent in 2000.

For the past two years trade growth has been held back by the Asian financial crisis, but the new report said the recovery in the affected economies had been surprisingly strong.

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