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Trade ministers praise talks but fail to reach agreement

SHARE Trade ministers praise talks but fail to reach agreement

MEXICO CITY — Trade ministers said Saturday that a meeting to iron out their differences on a new round of global trade talks had been very positive, even though they did not reach any kind of agreement.

U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick said discussions were "particularly excellent" on agricultural subsidies, one of the main stumbling blocks in deciding an agenda for new talks.

Meetings here Saturday were part of an ongoing effort to cobble together a tentative agreement for the World Trade Organizations November meeting in Doha, Qatar.

European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy described the meeting as "an important staging post on the road to Doha."

Details of the meeting were announced at the last minute, so anti-globalization protests that have become routine at most WTO meetings were light. Ministers also tried to launch a new round of talks in 1999 in Seattle, but failed to agree on an agenda amid riots.

The last round of trade talks, which finished in 1994, led to the World Trade Organization's creation in 1995.

Some WTO members, especially the United States and the European Union, argued Saturday that a new round of talks were needed to help address growing concerns about globalization and sagging economies. But many developing countries say they have yet to see the benefits of the 1994 agreements. Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran said the 18 participants in Saturday's meeting developed a "better understanding of one another" but that his nation was still pushing to resolve disputes from the 1994 agreement before agreeing to a new round.

He said about a dozen developing nations planned to meet later this month in Geneva to discuss their concerns.

Poorer nations are pushing for greater access to markets in the industrialized world, and have argued that any new talks should include discussions on antidumping rules that keep them from flooding markets with cheap goods.

Zoellick said antidumping rules were still "a sensitive" topic for the United States.

Many other members — especially the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Norway and Switzerland — are trying to maintain agricultural subsidies to protect their farming industry.

On the Net: World Trade Organization: www.wto.org