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World trade Organisation struggles to revive a universal trade deal

AFP, Wednesday 15 Dec 2010
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World Trade Organization (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy said Tuesday that the "final countdown" had begun on talks for a free trade pact, noting that there was new energy to conclude the Doha Round in 2011.

"Although we still have important challenges ahead of us, I sense a new energy and a determination among all participants to ensure that we grasp the narrow, but real opportunity to conclude the Round next year," said Lamy, the WTO's director general.

"I genuinely sense that the final countdown has begun. It is up to everyone to make sure that it ends in a successful lift off."

Launched 10 years ago in the Qatari capital, the Doha Round of negotiations between the WTO's 153 member nations or trade blocs have repeatedly foundered on trenchant disagreements and missed deadlines.

The last major push for a deal was launched in July 2008, but the initiative collapsed as developing and industrialised nations failed to agree on lowering tariffs on industrial goods and cutting subsidies on agriculture.

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