Nations must move now to save WTO round - US

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BRUSSELS, Oct 4 (Reuters) A long-delayed global free trade deal can still be done but countries such as Japan, Brazil and China must show flexibility or risk being blamed for failure, the top U.S.

negotiator said on Thursday.

''A successful agreement in the Doha round is within reach,'' U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab wrote in a comment piece published in the Financial Times.

''But it could slip through our fingers unless a handful of major developed and developing countries demonstrate their willingness to confront difficult choices.'' The World Trade Organisation launched the Doha round of free trade talks in 2001, hoping to give the world economy a boost and help poor nations ease poverty through more exports.

But the talks now risk several years of further delays if there is no breakthrough soon.

Schwab said the United States had shown flexibility by agreeing to negotiate within a range for cutting U.S. farm subsidies drawn up by a WTO mediator, and the European Union, Singapore, Chile, Mexico and others had ''stepped up'' also.

''Lamentably, most of the other leading members have yet to state their intentions,'' she said.

''Even worse, some have signalled an unwillingness to negotiate within the texts' ranges or a desire to nullify market-opening commitments through loopholes.'' Schwab said Japan, Switzerland and other rich nations which shield their farmers must now show they can negotiate within the ranges spelt out by the WTO mediator.

Developing economies such as Brazil, China, India, Argentina and South Africa must do the same on cutting farm and industrial tariffs, she said, adding ''anything short of this commitment should turn the spotlight on any nation risking the round.'' Negotiators from the WTO's 151 member countries have been meeting in Geneva in recent weeks in a bid to narrow their differences, possibly paving the way for a ministerial-level meeting in the coming weeks.

REUTERS SR SSC1523

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