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Rinance ministers talks in Singapore creates chances of world trade talks

Written by: Staff

SINGAPORE, Sep 17: Talks among finance ministers in Singapore have boosted the chances of a breakthrough in stalled world trade talks, British finance minister Gordon Brown said on Sunday.

Brown said he believed Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organisation, would now be able to make progress towards a deal by the end of the year to tear down barriers to global commerce.

''I've never seen a discussion in all the years I've been to IMF meetings so determined that we bring the trade talks to conclusion,'' said Brown, who was speaking in his capacity as chairman of the International Monetary Fund's main steering committee.

Brown said finance ministers were ''fired up'' to get a deal, not least because a rising tide of protectionism posed a threat to the global economy.

Lamy, who briefed the IMF panel, suspended the long-running Doha Round of trade talks in July because of deep disagreements between rich and poor countries over how to liberalise trade in agricultural goods.

In his speech to the IMF's International Monetary and Finance Committee, the WTO chief said there were more reasons to be optimistic but cautioned the challenge was ''not technical, but political.'' ''We need to translate our collective concerns into concrete action and this means engaging in some political heavy lifting in constituencies at home,'' Lamy said.

''It is now time to reflect, to consult with stakeholders, to crunch numbers, to work together so that a resumption can take place soon with renewed positions brought to the table,'' he added.

Brown, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, said the determination expressed by new U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson also made him optimistic about breaking the Doha round deadlock.

''We are fired up as a group in wanting both a conclusion to the trade round and a successful outcome, and I believe that is sending a message right across the world,'' Brown said.

Paulson told the panel the United States was fully committed to getting the Doha talks back on track, but added, ''I'm not coming to bring any new concessions ... but I believe if we have an acceptable deal, I believe we'll be able to get it through Congress.'' Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath poured cold water on the chances of a breakthrough, saying too many Indians scraped a living from the land for India to countenance opening up its market further to imports of farm goods.

''There is no question of India making concessions at all where agriculture is concerned because our issue is subsistence,'' Nath told reporters.

''As I have said before, we are willing to negotiate commerce but not subsistence,'' Nath said.

India is a key player in the Doha round. Along with the United States, the European Union, Australia, Brazil and Japan, it formed a Group of Six countries that Lamy sought in vain to corral into agreeing the outlines of a deal in July.


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