1 Feb 2009

Trade ministers to work for global deal this year

2:39 pm on 1 February 2009

Trade ministers have agreed to step up efforts to reach a new global trade deal by the end of 2009 and guard against protectionism to help pull the world out of economic crisis.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday, they said keeping trade open was a central element in any solution to the crisis.

European Union Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said "we need to keep trade open" in order to come out of the economic downturn.

Ministers from 17 economies, plus the European Union, agreed that completing the Doha round of talks to open global trade by the end of 2009 was their top priority.

The Doha round was launched by the World Trade Organisation in late 2001 to open trade in food, and goods and services and help developing countries trade their way out of poverty.

However, agreement on the details has proved elusive since then.

A decision last month by the EU to resume export subsidies of dairy produce, has been denounced by Australia and New Zealand as well as all the Cairns Group.

Ms Ashton said the subsidies were a temporary measure to help an industry through troubled times. But WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said that whatever the technicalities, the political signal was not right.