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WTO puts crunch meeting on ice amid last minute wrangling

November 21, 2013 at 1:44 am | News Desk

WTO puts crunch meeting on ice amid last minute wrangling Geneva: The World Trade Organization on Wednesday postponed a crunch meeting as round the clock efforts continued to finalise a deal ahead of a make or break summit next month.

In a statement, the WTO said that Thursday’s session of its ruling body, the General Council, had been postponed until further notice.

The council had been scheduled to decide whether it could put a deal on the table at December 3-6 ministerial summit on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Trade diplomats from the WTO’s 159 member economies have spent recent weeks making a last-ditch effort to bridge bitter differences and try to revive talks on an accord to ease barriers to global commerce.

Roberto Azevedo, the Brazilian former trade envoy who took over as WTO director general in September, has repeatedly warned that the negotiating must not be left until the Bali summit.

The summit is seen as perhaps the last chance to revive the WTO’s so-called “Doha Round” of talks, launched in 2001 at a summit in Qatar.

The round’s goal is to craft a wide-ranging global accord on opening markets and removing trade barriers, in order to harness international commerce to develop poorer economies.

But the talks have stalled as rich countries, emerging powers and the world’s poorest nations spar over the concessions needed to yield a deal.

Negotiators have long ruled out the chances of Bali giving the Doha Round a major shot in the arm, and are instead trying to draw up thematic accords for the summit, which could be fed into a wider package later.

One covers “trade facilitation”, which involves simplifying customs procedures in an effort to make commerce smoother, and where divisions centre on the time-lag developing countries would get to fall into line, plus the support they would get from donors to do so.

Another division is over “food security”, pushed by India, under which developing countries want to be allowed to subsidise grain stockpiling to help low-income farmers and consumers — stocks that critics warn could end up on the open market, skewing trade.

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