Doha talks could finish before US election-Schwab

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SINGAPORE, Nov 19 (Reuters) Talks on a deal to free up world trade in the Doha round could be completed before an election in the United States next year, the top US trade representative said today.

The Doha round of trade talks, launched six years ago, has been deadlocked, with the United States and the European Union calling on developing countries to open up their markets for manufacturers in return for cuts by rich countries to trade-distorting farm subsidies.

''The Doha round is not dead,'' US Trade Representative Susan Schwab told reporters in Singapore after meetings with Southeast Asian officials. ''There's every reason to expect that this could happen in the current administration.'' ''We need to go forward on the basis of texts that are on the table,'' she said, adding some progress has been made on both agriculture and manufacturing.

Developing countries say proposals currently on the table are not in the spirit of the Doha round's development mandate because they require poor countries to cut their industrial tariffs by more than rich countries would do.

The EU's top trade official said this month that both the US and Europe will have to settle for less than they wanted. Many experts think the final deal requires the US to make deep cuts in its farm subsidies and tariffs.

Schwab said the U.S. was not comfortable with some of the proposals on the table, but said the debate was not a North-South divide but held by up some ''defensive'' countries. Democratic lawmakers said last week the the US Congress is likely to reject a world trade agreement unless it restores eroded US ability to impose duties on unfairly traded imports. Recent Chinese complaints have also added to doubts over a deal.

REUTERS SKB SSC1358

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