WTO talks to secure a global trade agreement are close to collapse amid farm stand-off

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Geneva, July 29 : Talks resumed on Tuesday at the World Trade Organization in Geneva to rescue a world trade deal, but hopes for successful negotiations remained dim.

Trade officials said that talks were close to collapse over measures intended to help poor countries protect their farmers.

Developing countries like China and India are at loggerheads with food exporters like the United States over the issue of safeguards against food import surges, and differences on several other fundamental parts of a deal are also unresolved.

Ministers were mulling a new compromise proposal on the safeguards as talks entered their ninth day -- the longest WTO ministerial-level meeting, trade officials said.

"There is no formula that will give complete assurance to anyone. So one has to take risks and this is the moment that we need to do that," said Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, as he arrived at the meeting.

Failure remained a real possibility.

"I don't know whether there is going to be a deal today. There should be a deal today, considering what's at stake and the value of the outline deal that is on the table. And if people don't want this deal there is no better deal coming along and they will just have to consider if it fails what they will lose. They will lose agricultural reform in the developed world, they will be losing many opportunities and some protections for developing countries. It makes no sense at all to let this fail," European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told reporters on his way to the negotiations.

The talks aimed at salvaging the seven-year-old Doha trade round had been "a minute away" from being called off in the early hours of Tuesday over safeguards, one trade official said, but there was no sign of agreement over the new compromise.

The negotiations for a global deal trade began in 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks on the United States, in the hope of boosting the world economy and helping poor countries.

Negotiators from the United States, China and India were digging in their heels on the details of a "special safeguard mechanism" against import surges in food products such as rice.

The proposal also pits developing farm exporters like Paraguay and Uruguay against other poor nations who are worried about their farmers' survival, especially in Asia.

ANI

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