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Lamy upbeat on WTO trade pact this year -paper

By Staff
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GENEVA, Feb 24 (Reuters) World Trade Organisation chief Pascal Lamy was quoted on Friday as saying he was optimistic that stumbling blocks to a global trade deal can be overcome by mid-year, leading to a full pact by the end of 2006.

But Lamy, in a newspaper interview, said political leaders must convince electorates that painful concessions -- including further cuts to politically explosive farm supports -- would be rewarded with greater access for certain goods and services.

The 149-member WTO is struggling to agree on a new deal, known as the Doha round, by year-end. Negotiators face an April 30 deadline to clinch formulas for cutting farm and industrial goods tariffs and reducing trade-distorting subsidies.

''It has to be the first part of this year,'' Lamy told the International Herald Tribune in Paris. ''The notion that this might be the end-game has created focus and a bit of heat.'' Lamy said negotiators realised a deal was crucial before politically-sensitive national elections in the United States, Brazil and Mexico in the second half of this year.

His remarks follow a meeting between EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman to try to bridge differences on farm issues, the main stumbling block.

Mandelson said on Wednesday that both transatlantic powers could modify their agricultural stances in the talks if major developing countries made better offers to open their services and industrial goods markets.

''What is on the table is clearly not enough,'' Lamy said. ''But we are moving steadily toward the necessary top-ups,'' he added, referring to more concessions for farm subsidies in the United States, farm tariffs in the EU and industrial tariffs in developing countries.

After week-long talks on agriculture, New Zealand's envoy Crawford Falconer, who chairs the negotiations, said last Friday there had been slight progress but a deal was still distant.

Brazil's ambassador to the WTO, Clodoaldo Hugueney, speaking in Washington a day later, said the negotiations could yield results by the April deadline and lead to broader agreement.

Ministers from six key WTO players -- the EU, the United States, Brazil, India, Australia and Japan -- will meet in London from March 10-12.

Lamy told the paper that the outline of a deal could emerge during that gathering.

REUTERS SD PM1651

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